Pacific Triangle Software Welcomes identiMetrics as a Partner for its Expanding Markets.

MALVERN, PA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–THURSDAY, JANURY 25, 2007–identiMetrics, a recognized leader in the development and marketing of biometrics finger scanning identification solutions, has been selected by Pacific Triangle Software, Inc. to incorporate their proprietary software, identiFi, into Pacific Triangle´s expanding biometric markets.

Pacific Triangle Software, Inc., headquartered in Los Gatos, California, with offices in Shreveport, Louisiana, provides a variety of customer-proven food service products under the Bon Appetit and Panda software product lines to nearly 200 school districts, with over 1,600 installations nationwide. Their solutions are highly customizable and also include point-of-sale devices and integrated services for installation, training and maintenance. Bon Appetit software delivers food service solutions through the effective use of integrated software and technology. Panda software streamlines nearly every facet of the food service process–from point-of-sale to state and federal reporting.

According to David Swank, President of Pacific Triangle Software, "Our flagship products put us on the map, when it comes to food service efficiency. Bon Appetit has been around since 1987 and Panda was introduced in 1997. However, like all businesses, we are looking to be at the forefront of this amazing industry shift into biometrics. identiMetrics is giving us that chance to really go forward in a big way. It´s a terrific opportunity!"

"We certainly share that sentiment," remarks Jay Fry, identiMetrics CEO. "Whenever two companies come together with the same vision and goals, synergy is the result. We continue to reaffirm that biometric finger scanning is a trusted, cost-effective and convenient technology that is being implemented by school districts nationwide. Food service is a business that needs to run efficiently. identiFi makes it all come together. It´s the perfect partnership!"

Pacific Triangle, Inc., a corporation based in Los Gatos, California, provides school districts with the most versatile school food service software available on the market today. They offer a wide variety of food service products under the Bon Appetit and Panda Software product lines. Their primary focus is marketing to institutional food service facilities, which includes K-12 school districts, correctional facilities and hospitals. With over 1,600 installations nationwide, Pacific Triangle Software, Inc. continues to be a recognized leader in this industry. They offer a food service management system that organizes virtually every aspect of the food service operation. They take pride in their leadership in this industry and plan to extend their market and continue to develop more management tools for their clientele. For further information, call 408-395-7838 or visit www.schoolfoodservicesoftware.com.

identiMetrics, Inc., an identity management company, is a leader in the development and marketing of biometric finger scanning identification solutions. identiMetrics´ proprietary software, identiFi, is a biometric finger scanning ID platform that provides a cost-effective and accurate replacement for swipe-card readers, barcode readers, and PIN pads, allowing any organization to rapidly integrate and easily deploy biometrics. identiFi eliminates the problems and costs created by cards and PINS and quickly integrates with host applications providing irrefutable proof of identification. identiMetrics is primarily focused on the unique needs of consumer markets including education, retail POS, healthcare and hospitality. For more information, visit www.identimetrics.net.

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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.

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Elluminate Helps LINGOs Members Make a Difference Worldwide

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, January 29, 2007–Elluminate, Inc., a leading provider of live eLearning and Web collaboration solutions for the real-time organization, announced today that LINGOs (Learning for International Non-Governmental Organizations) has implemented Elluminate Live!® Academic Edition as one of its resources for member organizations around the world, including Care, Habitat for Humanity and Save the Children. Elluminate joins the ranks of other LINGOs partners, such as Microsoft, eCornell and Project Management Institute.

A nonprofit consortium of humanitarian relief and development agencies, LINGOs was created to apply learning-related technology and best practices to critical missions such as relieving poverty and conducting efficient disaster response. The organization is using the live eLearning environment for meetings and collaboration on a global level. In addition, LINGOs will use Elluminate Live! as part of its blended learning environment for specific courses that include training for a new UNICEF-funded database used to track children separated from their families during natural disasters and a stress management program for humanitarian workers.

"Where we work, low bandwidth is a given and telephony charges for connecting multiple countries can quickly become cost prohibitive," said LINGOs Executive Director Eric Berg. "A tool like Elluminate Live! with its low bandwidth support and high-quality VoIP is absolutely essential for the professional development of our members´ direct employees and expatriates as well as their local native staffs. People are delighted with the product because they are getting to do things they couldn´t do any other way. I am so grateful that Elluminate and its people are committed to supporting our mission."

"Elluminate believes strongly in being a good corporate citizen and supporting the efforts of a wide variety of humanitarian and other nonprofit organizations like LINGOs," said Maurice Heiblum, president of Elluminate USA, Inc. "Elluminate Live! was specifically designed to facilitate the communication, education and collaboration that are so critical to the success of any organization, and it´s especially gratifying to be of service to those agencies whose mission it is to help those who need it most."

About LINGOs

LINGOs (Learning for International Non-Governmental Organizations) was founded in 2004 with the mission of helping humanitarian relief and development agencies share expertise, best practices and resources related to technology-assisted learning. Members include Save the Children, Heifer International, Care, Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Corps, Catholic Relief Services, The Nature Conservancy and Relief International. LINGOs also engages partner organizations, companies with products and services for the eLearning market, to provide expert assistance and resources to help LINGOs members take advantage of eLearning. In addition to Elluminate, LINGOs partners include companies such as Microsoft, The Masie Center, Ninth House, Connected Learning and Mind Leaders. For more information, visit http://www.lingos.org.

About Elluminate, Inc.

Elluminate, Inc. provides proven, best-in-class solutions for real-time online learning and collaboration. The company delivers exceptional outcomes, including enhanced learning experiences, increased retention and completion rates, lower Total Cost of Ownership, and higher ROI. Elluminate Live! features high-quality voice over the Internet, robust interactive functionality for participants and moderators, and unique No User Left Behind" technology, regardless of platform or Internet connection speed. Elluminate is one of Deloitte´s 50 Fastest Growing Technology Companies, is the winner of several prestigious industry awards, including a Top Training Product award from Human Resource Executive magazine and Network Computing magazine´s Editor´s Choice Award for Web conferencing software, and is rated by Forrester Research as a "strong performer" in Web conferencing. Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Elluminate is the trusted choice of prominent academic institutions and corporations, such as ADP, DeVry University, Duke University, Georgia State University, Johns Hopkins University, Novell, PA Department of Education, Queen´s University, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems, and many more. For more information, visit www.elluminate.com.

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Apangea Learning Hires Heinz Endowments´ Gerry Balbier

PITTSBURGH, Pa., January 26, 2007 — Apangea Learning, a leading provider of cost-effective differentiated instruction, announced the recent hire of Gerry Balbier as vice president of innovative programs.

Previously to joining Apangea Learning, Balbier was senior program officer with The Heinz Endowments. He was responsible for lead development and implementation of strategic investments in math, science and reading education, instructional technology and program evaluation. Balbier was also director special projects for the Heinz Family Foundation (Washington, DC), and a legislative assistant in the U.S. Senate.

As vice president of innovative programs, Balbier will work to create strategic business partnerships in collaboration with non-profit program providers, government agencies, foundations and corporate partners. The ultimate goal of these partnerships is to increase student achievement in mathematics that is constant over time using more sustainable financial practices. Responsibilities include all aspects of funding and services related to non-profit programs on a regional and national level, including the development of grants program and other funding mechanisms that increase adoption and effective use of Apangea Learning tutoring programs, especially in disadvantaged communities.

"Gerry is an invaluable resource to the company," explained Apangea Learning CEO Louis Piconi. "Not only does Gerry have over 15 years of grant making experience, he has established a personal commitment towards improving education through partnerships with foundations, policy makers, school districts and corporations," Piconi added.

Balbier is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University (BA) and Carnegie Mellon University (MA). He is also a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University´s Senior Executive Program.

Company also grows sales force with recent hires

Apangea Learning growth cycle continues with the recent hiring of Tom Carlson, Christine Riviello and Lora Wade to its sales force.

Tom Carlson was recently hired as a sales executive. His territory will include the mid-Atlantic region. Previously, he was a territory account manager with Educational Resources. Carlson is a graduate of Laroche College (BA).

Christine Riviello was recently hired as a sales executive. Her territory includes the Western U.S. Riviello was an account representative in the environmental and metallurgical analysis field for the past nine years. She is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania (BS).

Lora Wade was recently hired as a college sales executive. She is responsible for the company´s new college sales initiatives. Previously, Wade was a field sales representative for Course Technology, Thomson Learning. Before that, she was an editorial assistant, assistant editor, editor and inside sales representative. Wade is a graduate of West Virginia University (BA) and is currently perusing a Master of Science Degree in Business Education at Robert Morris University.

"Adding Tom, Lora and Christine to the sales team will allow us to reach more students then ever before," said Piconi. "Not only will Lora be instrumental in launching our 2007 college sales initiative, but Tom and Christine will allow us to access markets we previously didn´t have the bandwidth to reach." Piconi added.

About Apangea Learning: Apangea Learning is setting a new standard in the way students learn. The company´s groundbreaking SmartHelp tutoring solution enables students to dramatically improve achievement, at the most cost-effective price. SmartHelp provides differentiated instruction for every student via a unique integration of its intelligent tutoring system and live one-on-one human tutors. Apangea Learning´s solutions are based on one of the world´s largest bodies of cognitive research. It utilizes innovative Web-based technology that engages students and teaches fundamental problem-solving skills. Visit Apangea Learning on the Web at www.apangealearning.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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COLORADO STATE LIBRARY LAUNCHES LIBRARY JOBLINE

Library Jobline, a searchable database of job openings in libraries and related information organizations, has been launched by the Colorado State Library.

Developed by the staff at the Library Research Service (LRS) with the help of the Jobline Advisory Committee, it may be found www.LibraryJobline.org or follow the links on the CSL web site.

The new site replaces the former static web page with a databasse. A database of job ads allows users to customize the job posting and job-seeking experience. A database allows for the collection of data for future use in the analysis of trends in library and information jobs as evidenced in online job ads.

Users may set up an account as either an employer or a job seeker. Provide information about the job you are trying to fill or the job you are trying to find and Library Jobline does the rest.
For more information, visit www.lrs.org/blog/ViewItem.asp?Entry=139 Additional help is available by contacting a member of the LRS staff at LRS@LRS.org or 303-866-6900.

The Colorado State Library, part of the Colorado Department of Education, is a service agency assisting public, school, academic and special libraries in the state. It also provides a number of electronic and Internet services, such as Jobline.

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Three skills students need to be globally competitive

Day Two of the 2007 Florida Educational Technology Conference opened with several simultaneous keynote sessions on topics such as global competitiveness and combining creativity and technology.

One of the keynotes, from Alan November, an internationally recognized ed-tech leader and consultant, focused on how to prepare U.S. students to compete and succeed in an increasingly global economy.

“Are we producing children who are globally competitive?” November asked the audience. “The answer is no. Until we sort out what it means to be globally competitive … the nation will fail.”

The key to using technology in the classroom, November said, is not to train teachers to use it, but to train them on how to incorporate that technology creatively into lessons in engaging and stimulating ways. Additionally, students should be able to connect with classrooms around the world, to boost a global perspective on learning.

“The real staff development problem in K-12 is not teaching teachers technology, it’s teaching them to redesign the assignments they give students to be more rigorous and demanding,” November said.

“Our standards are too low,” he added. “Anyone on the planet, who is self-disciplined and can learn online, can get an education.”

November emphasized three skills needed to turn the nation’s classrooms into places of effective digital learning. The first, he said, is to teach students to deal with massive amounts of information.

“We tend not to do this, and tend to only give children a little bit of information at a time, in the right order, to take the next test,” he said.

The second essential skill requires every classroom to become a global communication center with a more globalized curriculum.

“Teach children to work with people around the world, and establish a network of people you tap to make your students’ learning experiences more effective,” he urged attendees. “If every classroom were to connect students around the world, not only will we teach content, but [also] social protocol and how to work in teams, and [how to respect] other viewpoints. We’re spending too much time teaching teachers technical stuff and not enough on the creative application of the technical stuff.”

The third skill today’s students need is self-direction.

“The real change in the global economy isn’t that you get a laptop or an MP3 [player], it’s that you don’t have a boss telling you what to do,” he said. “If one person freezes up when they don’t know what to do and someone else is self-directed, that self-directed person is more valuable. We here have a culture that creates dependency; we teach kids how to be taught, and we need to teach them how to organize their own learning.”

November suggested ridding schools of planning committees, and turning those groups into global competitiveness committees. The real focus should not be to plan for technology, he said, but to plan for students who can contribute something to the world.

Teachers can reach students creatively by tapping into technologies that students are already using. Use podcasts to teach algebra, or use MySpace to teach social responsibility and implications, November suggested.

“We must teach our teachers to think globally, to connect content from other countries across the curriculum,” he said. “Everyone in the world does not love usthey don’t. If we don’t teach empathy to understand the position of other people, I don’t think it’s going to get better. We have got to teach empathy.”

He concluded: “The real revolution’s not technology, it’s the fantastic management of information and relationships. That’s why we’ve got to stop planning for technology.”

Links:

FETC 2007
http://www.fetc.org/fetc2007/index.cfm

November Learning
http://www.novemberlearning.com/Default.aspx?tabid=1

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States tackle global competitiveness

As eSchool News reported on Jan. 24, President Bush cited the competitiveness of American students as a critical challenge in his 2007 State of the Union address (see story: Bush to Congress: Renew NCLB this year). It’s a challenge that also has resonated with governors and other high-ranking state officials from coast to coast.

From increasing the rigor of the high school curriculum, to focusing more attention on math, science, and technology instruction, many U.S. governors this year have proposed new education programs that aim to raise high school graduation rates and better prepare students for success in the 21st century. And many of these proposals, in turn, rely on the use of educational technology.

Laptops and individual learning plans

In Arizona, for instance, students in seven high schools would be given laptop computers under a $5 million pilot project floated Jan. 24 by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne.

The idea is that teachers “can better prepare students for the digital economy in a context where every student has his or her own laptop,” Horne said in a “state of education” address delivered to state lawmakers.

Horne said he wanted to build on the success of Empire High School in Arizona’s Vail School District (see story: All-digital school passes first test) but was proposing only a limited pilot program for now “to avoid the pitfalls of failures experienced by other states.”

The program’s costs would be split between the state and participating schools, Horne said as he requested a $2.5 million state appropriation. He added: “It will be an important investment in keeping Arizona on the cutting edge of technology in education, and doing so carefully and successfully.”

Participating schools would be Benson High School in Cochise County, Vail High School Charter School in Pima County, Rio Rico High School in Santa Cruz County, Florence High School in Pinal County, Cyber High School in the Phoenix Union High School District, Gilbert Classical Academy in the Gilbert Unified School District, and Coconino High School in the Flagstaff Unified School District.

Horne’s annual address also requested a $400,000 appropriation for a state web-based system for all students in grades 7-12 to have individualized learning plans.

“Principals would be responsible to see that all students had these plans, and they would be a requirement for graduation, to assure that they were universal,” he said.

The purpose of the plans is to ensure that every student gets one-on-one advice from educators in identifying a career path. Currently, some students rarely meet with guidance counselors, who are overwhelmed with demand. Arizona reportedly averages one counselor for every 783 students, one of the highest ratios in the country.

The personal learning plans would require teachers to assume the role of academic guidance counselor, checking students’ academic progress and helping them focus on a realistic career path. The plans would be updated each year.

A program resembling what Horne wants is running at Arizona’s Glendale High School. Counselors there meet each year with students to update their personal learning plans. The web-based system includes career testing, as well as links to career information and job mentors, colleges and technical schools, and financial aid.

Last fall, eSchool News reported that Kentucky had launched a similar web-based program of its own to help students map out their academic careers (see story: Program creates ILPs for all students).

Model ed-tech program could be expanded

In Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, has proposed spending an extra $4 million to get students and teachers focused on math and science.

Blunt is proposing $2.9 million to expand the eMINTS (Enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies) program to 100 additional classrooms across the state. The program incorporates the internet and other technology into class work and is driven more by students’ inquiries than by textbooks and teacher lectures (see story: Study: Missouri’s ed-tech program is raising student achievement ).

Already, more than 500 schools in about 230 districts covering 20,000 students have been using the program after receiving federal funds, but this would be the first state revenue directed to it, if the Legislature agrees.

Blunt also wants to spend $1 million on after-school programs focused on math, science, and health, and $250,000 to cover up to half of students’ costs to take Advanced Placement (AP) tests in math and science, which can earn them college credit.

“To keep our economy growing, and to provide Missourians with good family-supporting jobs, we will need to ensure all Missourians are equipped with advanced skills in math and science,” Blunt said in a written statement.

The programs would be administered by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which also has pledged to dedicate $250,000 of its professional development funding toward getting teachers versed in the technology program and $100,000 to get more teachers certified to teach AP courses.

Blunt’s proposals follow a summit and special committee he organized to search for ways to improve math and science education and careers. The panel’s key recommendations included improving technology in the classroom and ensuring that teachers know how to make it part of their lessons.

Rigor, relevance, and results

In Minnesota, which enjoys a $2.2 billion budget surplus this year, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty has recommended a 9.3 percent boost in spending that includes $1.4 billion in additional funding for education. Pawlenty’s plans include incentives for schools to offer more demanding courses and money to improve infrastructure and classroom technology at state colleges and universities.

Portions of the new money are tied to performance goals, which Pawlenty said reflected the demand by taxpayers that government dollars get results.

Pawlenty recommends adding 2 percent onto the basic per-pupil education formula for all schools. Schools that get three or more stars on their state report cards–which are based largely on student test results–would qualify for an additional 2-percent increase each year, though they couldn’t use this extra money to fund permanent salary increases.

High schools that adopt stronger college-level course requirements for their students could tap into another $75 million bonus pot, part of Pawlenty’s push for reforms that he calls the new 3 Rs–rigor, relevance, and results. In addition, college-bound students from families that earn less than $100,000 could earn free university tuition if they take rigorous college-prep courses while still in high school, through a new $92 million scholarship fund.

Pawlenty’s plans also call for $67 million in new funding for advances in higher-education infrastructure and classroom technology.

Preparing students for 21st-century industries

In Colorado, Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter used his first State of the State address to link economic development with high-quality education.

“The best economic-development tool is a well-educated workforce,” he said. “But too many of our kids are dropping out of high school. Our achievement gap is too wide, and we aren’t doing enough to partner with teachers to help them improve student learning.”

Ritter said he wants to cut the state’s dropout rate–about 30 percent for the general student population, and more than 50 percent for black, Latino, and American Indian students–in half within 10 years. “I also want to keep the emerging technology gap from widening, so we don’t leave poor and rural kids behind,” he added.

Ritter called for more alignment between the state’s educational system and the demands of the new global marketplace, to prepare students for 21st-century industries such as renewable energy, aerospace, and biomedicine.

“Too many of Colorado’s children aren’t prepared for these jobs,” he said. “The maintenance director of the state’s biggest wind farm told me his No. 1 challenge is a lack of tech-savvy workers. Contractors will tell you it’s not uncommon to teach young employees remedial math at construction sites, because they didn’t learn enough in school.”

2010 Education

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, a Republican, updated stakeholders on the status of his “2010 Education” initiative during his State of the State address on Jan. 9. The program has three components: Starting Strong (early childhood education), Finishing Strong (preparing students for college and success in the 21st-century workforce), and Staying Strong (school funding and teacher quality).

Finishing Strong aims to create more rigorous graduation requirements, increase the state’s graduation rate, and increase participation in AP classes. It also includes a statewide laptop plan and the creation of a virtual high school.

“We are moving forward with the South Dakota Classroom Connections laptop project,” Rounds said. “Twenty school districts were selected as pilot sites. Teachers received their laptops and intensive training last summer. There are 5,000 new laptops in the schools this year, and our goal is to double that number to 10,000 laptops next school year.”

He added: “The results have already been excellent. Teachers have reported that students are more motivated in their studies, spend more time doing their homework, and have access to more information than ever before. Teachers also report a dramatic increase in the amount of communication [among] teachers, parents, and students.”

Rounds also said the state is working to create the South Dakota Virtual High School. The web site is now being tested, he said: “We have four providers in our state who are preparing 75 courses for the fall of 2007. A full high school curriculum should be available [online] by the fall of 2008.”

Facing 21st-century problems

In Washington, Gov. Christine Gregiore, a Democrat, also cited the need to prepare kids for what she called “the globally competitive job market of the 21st century.”

“That’s why my No. 1 priority this session is education. I ask that you join me in addressing this priority,” she said. “There is no better example of where we have held on to a 20th-century system while we face 21st-century problems.”

Most of Gregoire’s proposals focused on strengthening math, science, and technology education.

“This nation met the challenge of President Kennedy in the 1960s to be the first to put a man on the moon. Our modern-day moon challenge is to meet the math and science crisis facing our state and nation,” she said. “Three-quarters of Americans believe that if our next generation fails to improve skills in math, science, and engineering, it risks becoming the first generation of Americans who are worse off economically than their parents.”

Gregoire proposed reducing math and science class sizes to no more than 25 students for each teacher; offering additional training and coaching for math and science teachers, so all have a degree in their fields; recruiting 750 new math and science teachers by offering college scholarships, loan forgiveness, and luring those in the private sector who want to contribute to education; and standardizing the math and science curricula across the state, so students moving from one district to another learn the same material.

“We should have no more than three curricula options in the state, and we need to tie our math and science education to international standards so we know our kids can compete with anyone,” Gregoire said.

She also referenced the need for more students to study computer science and other “high-demand” subjects.

“A survey of Washington businesses shows that we are not keeping pace with employer needs–especially in fields like computer science, engineering, and construction,” she said. “We’re importing workers for good-paying jobs. Don’t you think our sons and daughters should get a shot at those jobs?”

Classrooms for the future

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a Democrat, has announced a $20 million, “classroom for the future” program. Designed to outfit the state’s 611 high schools with state-of-the-art technology, the program also is expected to include a statewide network of teacher mentors and $6 million for professional development to help educators integrate the new technology into classrooms.

Technology supplier CDW-G will be a primary provider of equipment. According to the company, Pennsylvania’s Classrooms for the Future solution includes:

“Lenovo® ThinkPad Notebooks

“Futurekids, Inc. professional development and training

“Microsoft Office 2007

“Inspiration Software

“Adobe Creative Suite

“Promethean interactive white boards

“Polyvision interactive white boards

“D-Link access points

“HP multimedia printer and digital camera

“Canon video camera

“Bretford mobile laptop carts

“Epson projector

“Logitech webcam and speakers

Links:

Arizona Department of Education
http://www.ade.state.az.us

Missouri’s METS (Math, Engineering, Technology, and Science) Initiative
http://gov.mo.gov/mets

Minnesota Department of Education
http://children.state.mn.us/mde/index.html

Colorado Department of Education
http://www.cde.state.co.us

South Dakota’s “2010 Education”
http://www.2010education.com

Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction
http://www.k12.wa.us

Pennsylvania’s Classrooms for the Future Overview
http://www.pde.state.pa.us/ed_Tech/cwp/view.asp?a=169&q=118828

CDW-G Classroom for the Future page
http://www.cdwg.com/PAclassroomsforthefuture

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Science Guy to educators: ‘Change the world’

The 2007 Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) kicked off Wednesday, Jan. 24, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., with an ambitious challenge from keynote speaker Bill Nye to conference participants: “Change the world.”

Best known for his work on the Bill Nye the Science Guy television program, which earned him seven Emmy Awards, Nye also has written four books. He is the host of two currently-running television series:  The 100 Greatest Discoveries, which airs on the Science Channel, and The Eyes of Nye, which airs on PBS stations.

“The next decade is going to change the world, and we’re all going to be here for it,” Nye said, addressing the audience in his trademark blazer and bowtie.

Nye discussed how his father’s fascination with sundials inspired his own interest in how science impacts everyday phenomena, then linked his own personal interests and experiences with FETC’s mission–to promote educational technology.

He discussed recent discoveries and findings on the planet Mars and related them to today’s science education. “If life is discovered on Mars, it will have been by a team of people educated by public schools, and that’s a celebration of educational technology,” he said.

“That, my friends is the essence of science–the joy of discovery,” Nye told the crowd.

“We are facing a serious business here on Earth; we are facing a very serious future unless we get on it,” he said, referring to science and education. “It was through exploration of other worlds that I first got this perspective.”

Nye discussed the issue of global warming and the fact that some influential political activists and others in leadership roles do not believe it to be a problem.

“This is where we, as educators, must change the world,” he said.

President Bush’s American Competitiveness Initiative, designed to increase the number of scientists, technical workers, and qualified math and science teachers, should be a motivation to educators, Nye said.

“That’s what we need–you have to change the world,” Nye said, continuing his theme of change. He then described several different scientific problems and their potential solutions, emphasizing that through education, the nation’s students may come up with the answers to some of today’s most pressing questions.

“One hundred years ago we were riding horses to work, but now we’ve changed and we have cars,” he said. “In another hundred years we can change again, and that is up to us as educators, to make our students realize that [science] is a worthy pursuit.”

More than 8,500 teachers, administrators, and educational technology experts reportedly are in attendance at this year’s conference.

“FETC is a great opportunity for teachers to learn how technology can enhance their students’ learning experience,” said Michael Eason, executive director of the Florida Educational Technology Corporation, which manages the annual conference. “Those attending learn about best practices from national experts on educational technology, as well as [from] their peers. Plus, they will see–and can purchase–the latest innovations in classroom technology in our 250,000-square-foot exhibit hall.”

The conference features more than 200 hour-long concurrent sessions that will provide professional development and demonstrate how ed-tech products, applications, and best practices can be used in the classroom.

In addition, attendees will have the opportunity to tour Orange County’s Ocoee Middle School, a technology demonstration school for the state of Florida.

Links:

FETC 2007

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

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Education leaders react to Bush’s proposals

Edward J. McElroy, president, American Federation of Teachers:

“Two months and 16 days since his policies took a self-described ‘thumpin’,’ President Bush continues to press the politics of division. In his State of the Union Address, President Bush mostly spoke in broad terms about the need to support our students, teachers, and schools. However, with his proposed education initiative that will include two voucher schemes as part of the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, President Bush has clearly decided to invite partisan bickering rather than bipartisan progress. Every minute spent debating a voucher proposal means less time for making needed changes to a law that has been long on promise and short on progress. That does nothing to help our children, our teachers, or our schools.

“What President Bush should be saying is that he will support research-backed solutions for struggling schools and disadvantaged students, and that additional funding will be proposed in support of real programs, not as a salve to avoid addressing the fundamental problems in the law. … The State of the Union is an opportunity for the president to set a national agenda that focuses on the needs of the people of the country and that puts their interests above partisan politics. President Bush missed that opportunity.”

Reg Weaver, president, National Education Association:

“Educators have experienced NCLB firsthand for the past five years and welcome the president’s acknowledgment that it’s time for increased flexibility and funding. We need to make sure struggling schools have the resources they need to improve. And we need to make sure the law is flexible enough to take a school’s improvement into consideration before leveling heavy-handed sanctions.

“No children should be ‘stuck in failing schools,’ and access to a high-quality public school should be the basic right of every child. The success of all public schools should be the priority. So let’s not take one step forward and three steps back. NCLB reform shouldn’t be muddied by voucher proposals that have repeatedly failed, or floundered, in Congress. Whether they’re called ‘opportunity scholarships’ or ‘promise scholarships’ or any other name, a voucher is a voucher. School vouchers divert scarce dollars from underfunded public schools and move us farther from achieving a great public school for every child.”

Bob Wise, president, Alliance for Excellent Education:

“The president’s call to improve student achievement by increasing funding for No Child Left Behind is a promising step toward supporting America’s struggling students. However, we urge the president and Congress to strengthen the law to help all struggling students, including the six million in secondary schools who are at risk of dropping out. Unless reauthorization focuses on these students as well, the progress No Child Left Behind has shown in the early grades will be squandered as children move to higher grades. The president and Congress have the opportunity this year to ensure that all students, throughout their years in school, receive the support they need to earn a diploma and succeed as educated American citizens.”
 

Don Knezek, CEO, International Society for Technology in Education:
 
“We seem to be addressing things like world-class educational competitiveness [and] math and science priorities, while ignoring the role that digital technologies play now in those disciplines-and also the role they play in students’ ability to learn in the modern digital landscape. … As the world and the learning environment become increasingly digital, ensuring consistent skills among our students in those areas is absolutely important.”

Keith Krueger, CEO, Consortium for School Networking:

“We were pleased to see that the president emphasized the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act and competitiveness in his State of the Union address. The Consortium for School Networking fervently believes that educational technology tools and skills are inextricably linked to the goals of ensuring that all students achieve academically and are prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st-century workforce.

“We look forward to working with the administration and Congress during the NCLB reauthorization process, as well as through the annual appropriations processes, to maintain within the new law an adequately funded, distinct educational technology program focused on powerful teaching and learning through technology. Without a continued commitment to educational technology at the federal level, we fear that the tie that binds together so many of the law’s goals-improved student achievement, highly qualified teachers, the application of data to learning, and parental involvement-would be severed. Moreover, the absence of federal educational technology investment would greatly disadvantage our students and our nation in the global marketplace.”

Statement from the American Association of School Administrators: 

“We are disappointed in President Bush’s plans for education, which he mentioned in his State of the Union message. The president reiterated his plans to ‘stay the course’ with his badly flawed program created by the No Child Left Behind legislation. He claims the program has been successful, when teachers, parents, and children know that its main success has been in diverting attention and energy away from real learning and a comprehensive curriculum. While the president acknowledged that changes needed to be made to the law and flexibility would be required, his overall approach failed to consider the destructive elements of his policy and how they might be addressed differently in the future.

“The president holds fast to the idea that ‘accountability’ must be pursued by a coercive process of federal oversight built upon a few rewards and a great deal of punishment,   and his unbending belief that student achievement is the equivalent of a single test given to every child every year. It should be noted that other countries that are economic competitors have found ways of shaping accountability to be a process of continuous improvement carried out in a collaborative manner. 

“The president, like most Americans, is concerned with our ability to stay internationally competitive. However, his unbending support of a law that narrows and minimizes the educational experience undercuts the very creativity and innovation necessary to be competitive in the international environment.

“The president’s ideas for privatizing education under the cloak of parental choice has actually weakened the very skills and children his program purports to help by siphoning off higher-achieving children and resources to private and more privileged schools. His proposal to create two new voucher programs will not ensure increased student achievement; it will simply divert federal tax dollars from public schools to private schools that are not held to the same standards the president espouses.

“During the five years NCLB has been in place, several of its underlying assumptions have inhibited students’ progress. For example, the law has failed to take into account the individual learning needs of students in special education and students with limited English proficiency. Under NCLB, students are judged on a single test score, rather than multiple measures that more accurately reflect students’ individual growth and learning during the school year. In addition, the law’s focus on reading and math test results has led to a narrowing of the curriculum, which limits schools’ ability to offer children the broad education they need to succeed in life.

“There is a better way to proceed to close the achievement gap and increase student achievement. We support a fundamental transformation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to restore the law’s original intent to provide equitable educational opportunities for all children. We ask the Congress to join us in an effort to transform the current version of ESEA. Specifically, we ask that the Congress enact and the president support: (1) A law and regulations based on trust and an assumption that teachers and principals are trying their best to improve the achievement of all students, including low-income students; (2) Continued improvement of how student achievement is measured and data [are] used to assess group scores and individual progress; (3) Selecting a goal for progress in student achievement that is attainable; (4) Focusing the federal government’s role in education on providing support and developing capacity for improvement, rather than emphasizing sanctions; and (5) Engaging parents of low-income students as regular participants and partners in their children’s achievement.”

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