Virtual tours offer trips through time

Access to long-vanished sites and experiences are enriching learning for American students visiting museums and cultural centers from coast to coast, as the United States begins to catch up with Europe and parts of Asia in the emerging field known as “virtual heritage.” Many of the technology-driven advances in this new discipline are likely to become accessible to schools and colleges in the months and years ahead.

For one Kentucky resident, that future is now.

Kathy Choi touches a kiosk screen, then looks up at a larger wall screen to see digitally created yellowish-brown mounds snaking through bright green grassland dotted with brilliant blue rivers and lakes.

The ancient earthworks in the Ohio River Valley now are grass- and tree-covered mounds and walls diminished by development, floods, and agriculture. But she’s seeing them as they might have looked 2,000 years ago, by way of a computerized fly-over.

“It makes it all seem more real,” said Choi, 59, of Covington, Ky., maneuvering her way through the Cincinnati Museum Center’s interactive video tour of Fort Ancient and other earthworks.

Archaeologists and historians agree. Museums, educators, and others increasingly are using video, animation, graphics, and other technology to depict historical sites virtually, in three dimensions–beyond what text, maps, and drawings can offer.

On a virtual tour of an 18th-century American Indian village in North Dakota, visitors can enter an earthen lodge and hear sound effects as the animated figure of a woman scrapes a deer hide. The Archaeology Technologies Laboratory at North Dakota State University used 3-D computer visualizations to re-create the On-A-Slant Village of the Mandan, a tribe that inhabited the Plains area.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is creating a virtual 3-D model of a recently excavated theater in Williamsburg, the restored 18th-century capital of Virginia. The foundation also plans to add animation to the theater project and eventually create a virtual tour of the entire town, said Lisa Fischer, manager of the foundation’s digital history center.

An exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston used computerized 3-D animation to re-create a temple and a palace built by Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti. The museum plans a virtual heritage exhibition next year on the Assyrian empire.

Phil Getchell, the museum’s director of new media, said museum officials are looking for other new ways to use virtual-reality technology, and he sees museums increasingly turning to virtual heritage.

“It really seems to have taken off over the past two or three years, especially as [the technology] has become more affordable,” Getchell said.

Virtual-heritage exhibits and projects–considered novel a decade ago–have become popular in Europe and parts of Asia, where there has been more national funding. Virtual-heritage projects are found in several countries, including Italy, Germany, and Japan.

They are gaining momentum in the United States, too, as computer speed and technology improve and costs drop. Equipment costing more than $1 million a few years ago now can be purchased for tens of thousands of dollars less.

“Depending on the project, you can still spend a lot generating the content itself, but the equipment and technology is easier to use and more affordable,” said Donald Sanders, president of Learning Sites Inc., a company that designs and develops interactive 3-D models of sites, including those of a palace at Nimrud in Iraq.

At the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., visitors can view actual stone reliefs from the palace of a ninth-century Assyrian king, Ashurnasirpal II, at Nimrud. A computer animated fly-through of digitally reconstructed palace rooms shows the reliefs in their original locations. Visitors also can navigate their way through a virtual tour of a 3-D model of the palace.

Besides offering a means of improving understanding of the past, virtual heritage also is seen as a way to digitally preserve and document sites threatened by the environment, pollution, or–like the palace at Nimrud–by warfare and looting.

“It creates a vivid image that can persist in the public imagination and provide more insight and appreciation of lost architecture and cultures,” said John Hancock, a University of Cincinnati architecture professor and director of “Earthworks: Virtual Explorations of the Ancient Ohio Valley.”

The interactive video tour has traveled to sites in Ohio and Kentucky, and discussions are under way to take it to museums in Indiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Connecticut. Parts of the traveling exhibit are permanently displayed at such sites as the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Field Museum in Chicago.

The Adena, Hopewell, and Fort Ancient American Indian cultures that flourished 800 to 2,400 years ago built the earthworks, which include mounds and enclosures of varying sizes, often in geometric or animal shapes. Some were used for ceremonial and social activities.

The 18,000 feet of ancient earthen walls at Fort Ancient, north of Cincinnati, contain enough soil to fill 200 miles of dump trucks carrying 15 to 20 tons each and laid end-to-end.

In trying to find the best way to re-create the earthen architecture, Hancock’s team first thought the animation camera had to move viewers as if they were walking on the ground, because most virtual-heritage projects involve more standard types of architecture, such as buildings, where the camera moves alongside and even into sites. But they decided to move the camera up, providing a bird’s-eye view to give viewers a better idea of the scope of the earthworks when they were intact.

Reconstructions in movies such as Gladiator have pressured university research and media labs to make their projects look more real, but virtual-heritage reconstructions aren’t intended to compete with Hollywood or replace site visits, Hancock said.

“You see that these are computer representations. But if done well enough, people can get just the right amount of reality to spark their imagination,” he said.

Advocates have raised concerns about how to verify data used to create reconstructions and make sure the public understands that no reconstruction can be exact.

Jeffrey Clark, director of the North Dakota State laboratory that created the On-A-Slant project, said colleagues at a Berlin conference he recently attended discussed how to make sure the public understands the limits of virtual reconstruction.

“Archaeologists realize that any reconstruction–physical or virtual–is only conjecture, but the casual museum visitor may attach a validity to it that isn’t there,” he said.

Some Italian colleagues at the Berlin conference proposed a “sliding scale of certainty” that would rank the level of confidence archaeologists have in a particular reconstruction. No formal guidelines have yet been adopted.

Despite potential drawbacks, virtual heritage is moving forward, researching ways of connecting to senses other than vision and hearing–and even the possible use of holograms.

“History didn’t happen in 2-D,” Sanders said. “It happened in 3-D with people interacting with each other, and that’s why this field will grow as the benefits become more understandable.”


“Earthworks: Virtual Explorations of the Ancient Ohio Valley”

Learning Sites Inc.

On-A-Slant Virtual Village


Atomic Learning Releases Tutorials for Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional

May 25, 2007–Atomic Learning has released a new series of training tutorials on Adobe?s latest product, Acrobat 8 Professional.

Adobe Acrobat allows users to create and modify Adobe PDF documents. In this latest version, Acrobat 8 Professional, the software has enhanced and added features for collaboration, organization, and secure distribution.

Atomic Learning´s release includes tutorials (currently for Mac) on combining multiple files into a PDF package, using auto-recognize form fields, managing shared reviews and more. The PC series will follow in early fall. Advanced tutorials will be released later this year.

About Atomic Learning
Atomic Learning, Inc. was formed in 2000 by a group of technology educators with a mission to create useful and affordable online products focused on teaching people how to effectively use technology. Atomic Learning delivers a library of thousands of short, easy-to-view-and-understand tutorial movies that can be used as an integral part of a professional development program, a valuable curriculum supplement, and an anytime/anywhere software training resource. Atomic Learning now serves more than 4,000 school districts and universities in all 50 states and over 30 foreign countries, as well as individuals and organizations in a variety of other industries. For more information, visit


WeatherBug® and USA TODAY Education Announce Winners

Germantown, MD–WeatherBug®, the leading provider of live, local weather information, announced today the winners of the Science Literacy Project?s Share Fair, a joint effort between WeatherBug and USA TODAY Education, to bring interactive and engaging education programs to schools throughout the New York City area. In its third year, Project Share Fair is the end product of a 15-week Science Literacy Project to raise awareness of science and literacy in students from grades 3-12.

Using USA TODAY articles and Education program with WeatherBug Achieve, an award-winning, interactive, learning software that integrates live, local weather conditions from WeatherBug?s Network of 8,000 WeatherBug Tracking Stations around the U.S. into interactive lesson plans, students determine how each day?s news relates to science and weather and then research and design a project based on that information. Additionally, USA TODAY?s Education program provides teachers with daily lesson plans and online resources to support the projects. At the end, a School Share Fair is held where students have the opportunity to show their projects to the entire school and share what they have learned; the top three projects from each school are chosen to participate in the Project Share Fair.

"This hands-on approach to science, social studies, math, language arts, visual arts, technology, vocabulary and reading helps students develop skills in core subject areas," said Lauren Redmond, a participating teacher from PS 176. "The difference in the children?s capabilities, knowledge and enthusiasm for learning between now and the beginning of the project is very obvious to me."

Thirty projects from eight schools throughout the New York City area were presented and judged at the Project Share Fair, held at Bay Ridge Manor in Brooklyn, NY. The first place project winner, two runners-up, and the best overall school were presented with awards, and all students who participated received a medallion.

· The first place winners with the best project were from PS 176. Third grade students at the school focused on the problem of global warming and how it relates to air quality. Students generated solutions to global warming and steps people can take at their school, in their community, and around the world.
· Runners-up, 6th graders from IS 30, looked at New Orleans before, during, and after drastic weather and how the people of the city were affected by it. They used maps, charts, and graphs to show the weather data.
· An additional runner-up, a 6th grader from PS 104, compared the weather in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota over a three month period. He found interesting similarities and differences even though the states are geographically close.
· The 6th grade class at IS 30 was the class with the best overall projects. All their projects matched the requirements and expectations for the Share Fair.

Each teacher and classroom participating in the Science Literacy Project received WeatherBug Achieve, copies of USA TODAY newspapers and Inside USA TODAY–daily teaching guide, a project manual, professional development sessions, classroom resources including an atlas and wall map, and project t-shirts.

"The Share Fair was very successful this year," said Diana Dell, manager for WeatherBug Education Programs. "Even though every project couldn?t win, they were all very deserving. It was great to see the students get so involved and enjoy their hard work."

WeatherBug Achieve seamlessly integrates real time local and national weather data and camera images into a range of science, math, technology and geography lessons for elementary, middle and high school students. Using WeatherBug Achieve, teachers can create customized learning activities based on current and historical weather conditions from the national network of WeatherBug Tracking Stations, such as wind speed or humidity. In addition, students can compare local weather conditions to data from more than 8,500 other schools nationwide that participate in the WeatherBug Schools Program.

About USA TODAY Education
USA TODAY helps young people better understand the people, places, and events that impact their lives by connecting them to each day´s news in an engaging way. USA TODAY?s Education program has been in existence since 1983, today reaching over 30,000 middle and high school classrooms and over 480 college campuses. USA TODAY Education offers educational resources that make USA TODAY a daily, real-world learning tool. USA TODAY?s Education program provides: classroom sets of USA TODAY; Inside USA TODAY, a signature 3-page daily lesson plan; and unique online resources available at

USA TODAY is the nation?s top-selling newspaper. It is published via satellite at 36 locations in the USA and five sites abroad. With a total average daily readership of 5.2 million, USA TODAY is available worldwide.

About WeatherBug
WeatherBug ( and ensures that individuals, schools, businesses and government agencies receive the most precise live weather information, the most relevant weather reports, and the earliest weather warnings to safeguard property, lives and to plan with confidence. With 8,000 WeatherBug Tracking Stations and over 1,000 cameras primarily based at neighborhood schools and public safety facilities across the U.S., WeatherBug maintains the largest exclusive weather network in the world. The live, local weather conditions are delivered to millions of consumers via the Internet and mobile devices, more than 100 state and local government agencies including the National Weather Service, and to broadcast television stations, schools, and businesses. WeatherBug data is unique as it is the only live, neighborhood weather available anywhere. WeatherBug is a brand of AWS Convergence Technologies, Inc. (


MAXIMUS Special Education Case Management System Selected by Chicago Public Schools

5/21/07- The Chicago Board of Education has selected MAXIMUS (NYSE:MMS) and its TIENET™ special education case management system for district-wide implementation. The two year project will enable Chicago´s teachers and special education service providers to prepare fully compliant Individual Education Programs. In addition, by using a full case management system, staff will be able to collect, analyze, and report student achievement data to improve student performance and develop reports and communication for parents, teachers, administrators, and Board members.

MAXIMUS TIENET™ was selected through a competitive bidding process and a stringent selection process that included teachers, administrators, providers, technology experts, and district project personnel.

"MAXIMUS has exceeded our expectations at this time," said Arshele Stevens, CPS IMPACT Project Manager. "We feel MAXIMUS TIENET™ is the state of the art solution. We have had very positive responses from teachers and administrators in Chicago," said District CIO, Robert Runcie. "MAXIMUS has demonstrated an exceptional blend of project management proficiency, special education expertise, and technological skill, enabling us to better serve Chicago schools."

MAXIMUS CEO, Richard Montoni, said "The company was elated to have been selected by Chicago Board of Education and pledged total commitment to CPS and its IMPACT project. IMPACT is a multi-year project where CPS is installing, in addition to TIENET™, a student information system and a Curriculum and Instruction Management system."

Dr. Philip E. Geiger, Educational Division President for MAXIMUS, said, "MAXIMUS has devoted several full-time personnel that work as an integrated team with Chicago Public School (CPS) personnel and vendors involved in completing Chicago´s landmark technology IMPACT project that will make CPS a model for technology integration in America."

MAXIMUS TIENE™ is a premier comprehensive and robust special education case management system that has been developed by special educators for special educators and has been web-based since 2000. The system is used in many of the best school districts throughout the country. Besides Chicago Public Schools, it is used in Tucson Unified School District, Arizona; Anne Arundel and Baltimore County School Districts, Maryland; Richland Schools, California; Martin and Taylor Counties, Florida and Passaic and Edison School Districts, New Jersey and many more districts nationwide.

Chicago´s implementation is expected to be completed by May 2008.
For further information contact:

Rachel O´Konis

Communications Manager
Office of Technology Services
Chicago Public Schools Work:
Fax: 773-553-1368
Cell: 847-687-9222

Nora Paape
Vice President, Customer Service
106 Apple Street

Suite 100
Tinton Falls, NJ 07724


eCollege® to Be Acquired by Pearson

CHICAGO — May 14, 2007 — eCollege® [Nasdaq: ECLG], a leading provider of value-added information services to the post-secondary education industry, today announced that it has entered into an agreement to be acquired by Pearson Education, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pearson plc (LSE: PSON; NYSE: PSO), in a transaction with a total value of approximately $538 million. The proceeds will include $41 million from the separate sale of Datamark, the Company´s Enrollment Division, to an investor group led by Oakleigh Thorne, eCollege´s chairman and CEO.

The eCollege Board of Directors has unanimously approved the merger agreement with Pearson and recommends adoption of the agreement by eCollege´s stockholders. Under the agreement, eCollege stockholders will receive $22.45 in cash for each share of eCollege common stock, representing a premium of approximately 28 percent over the average closing share price during the previous 90 trading days.

"We believe this transaction presents an excellent opportunity to fulfill our commitment to maximize value for eCollege stockholders," said Thorne. "We also believe Pearson will provide an excellent home for our employees and customers and a strong vehicle for growth going forward."

Since its initial public offering in 1999, eCollege´s revenues have grown from $4 million to $116 million in full year 2006.

Highlights of the transaction include:

· Pearson will pay eCollege stockholders $22.45 in cash for each share of eCollege common stock. Completion of the transaction is subject to the approval of eCollege stockholders. Thorne family interests, who hold approximately 21 percent of eCollege common stock, have signed an agreement pledging to vote all of their shares in favor of the transaction. In addition, the transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions, and is expected to close during the third quarter. The transaction is not conditioned upon financing.

· The proceeds include $41 million from the agreed sale of the Company´s Enrollment Division, Datamark Inc., to an investor group led by Thorne family interests, who have agreed to provide up to $18 million in equity for the transaction.

· The sale of Datamark was approved by the eCollege Board of Directors based on the unanimous recommendation of a Transaction Committee comprised of three independent and disinterested directors. The Stock Purchase Agreement for Datamark may be terminated by eCollege if a superior proposal for Datamark were to be made by a third party (subject to the reimbursement of expenses to the Thorne investor group in an amount not to exceed $300,000).

Pearson has announced that Matthew Schnittman, current president of the eCollege eLearning Division, will join Pearson as president of eCollege. Additionally, Tom Dearden will remain president and chief executive officer of Datamark.

Evercore Group LLC acted as the financial advisor to eCollege and provided a fairness opinion to the eCollege Board of Directors.

About eCollege

eCollege [Nasdaq: ECLG] is a leading provider of value-added information service to the post-secondary and K-12 education industries. The Company´s eLearning Division designs, builds and supports some of the most successful, fully online degree, certificate/diploma and professional development programs in the country. The Company´s Enrollment Division, Datamark, Inc. helps institutions build new enrollments and increase student retention. Customers include publicly traded for-profit institutions, community colleges, public and private universities, school districts and state departments of education. eCollege was founded in 1996 and is headquartered in Chicago, with the eLearning Division headquartered in Denver. Datamark was founded in 1987 and is headquartered in Salt Lake City. For more information, visit and

Additional Information About the Transaction

eCollege will file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"), and furnish to its stockholders, a proxy statement soliciting proxies for the meeting of its stockholders to be called with respect to the acquisition of eCollege by Pearson Education, Inc.


eCollege stockholders and other interested parties will be able to obtain, without charge, a copy of the proxy statement (when available) and other relevant documents filed with the SEC from the SEC´s website at eCollege stockholders and other interested parties will also be able to obtain, without charge, a copy of the proxy statement (when available) and other relevant documents by directing a request by mail or telephone to, One N. LaSalle St., Suite 1800, Chicago, Illinois 60602, Attention: Corporate Secretary, telephone: 312-706-1710, or from eCollege website,

The Company and its directors and executive officers and certain other members of management and employees may be deemed to be participants in the solicitation of proxies from the Company´s stockholders in favor of the proposed transaction. Additional information regarding the interests of potential participants in the proxy solicitation will be included in the definitive proxy statement that eCollege intends to file with the SEC in connection with the scheduled special meeting of its stockholders.

Statements about the expected timing, completion and effects of the proposed acquisition of eCollege by Pearson Education, Inc. and all other statements in this press release other than historical facts constitute forward-looking statements. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, each of which is qualified in its entirety by reference to the following cautionary statements. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date hereof and are based on current expectations and involve a number of assumptions, risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements. eCollege may not be able to complete the proposed merger because of a number of factors, including, among other things, the failure to obtain stockholder approval or the failure to satisfy other closing conditions. Other risks and uncertainties that may affect forward-looking statements are described in the reports filed by eCollege with the SEC under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, including without limitation eCollege´s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2006.


Little blue robots recruit college kids

The lesson plan was called “Artificial Unintelligence,” but it was written more like a comic book than a syllabus for a serious computer science class.

“Singing, dancing, and drawing polygons may be nifty, but any self-respecting evil roboticist needs a few more tricks in the repertoire if they are going to take over the world,” read the day’s instructions to a dozen or so Georgia Tech robotics students.

The students had spent the last few months teaching their personal “Scribbler” robots to draw shapes and chirp on command. Now, they were being asked to navigate a daunting obstacle course of Girl Scout cookie boxes scattered over a grid.

The course is aimed at reigniting interest in computer science among undergraduates. Educators at Georgia Tech and elsewhere are turning to solutions like the Scribbler to draw more students to the field and reverse the tide of those leaving it.

At risk, professors say, is nothing less than U.S. technology supremacy. As interest in computer science drops in the United States, India and China are emerging as engineering hubs with cheap labor and a skilled work force.

Schools across the country are taking steps to broaden the appeal of the major. More than a dozen universities have adopted “media computation” programs, a sort of alternative introduction to computer science with a New Media vibe. The classes, which have been launched at schools from the University of San Francisco to Virginia Tech, teach basic engineering using digital art, digital music, and the web.

Others are turning to niche fields to attract more students. The California Institute of Technology, which has seen a slight drop in undergraduate computer science majors, has more than made up for the losses by emphasizing the field of bioengineering.

“Many of our computer science faculty work on subjects related to biology, and so this new thrust works well for us,” said Joel Burdick, a Caltech bioengineering professor.

At Georgia Tech, computing professor Tucker Balch says the brain drain is partly the fault of what he calls the “prime number” syndrome.

It’s the traditional way to teach computer science students by asking them to write programs that spit out prime numbers, the Fibonacci sequence, or other mathematical series.

It’s proven to be a sound way to educate students dead-set on joining the ranks of computer programmers, but it’s also probably scared away more than a few.

That’s why Balch, who oversees the robotics class, is optimistic about the Scribbler, a scrappy blue robot cheap enough for students to buy and take home each night after class but versatile enough to handle fairly complex programs.

The key to the class is the design of the robot. It weighs about a pound and is slightly smaller than a Frisbee, sporting three light-detecting sensors and a speaker that can chirp. And at about $75, it’s roughly the price of a science textbook.

The class centers on twice-weekly lectures, but the real excitement is in the weekly breakout session. That’s where teaching assistants outline their cheeky lesson plans and instruct students how to use commands like “turnLeft(x)” and “sense(y)” to navigate their Scribblers around makeshift obstacle courses.

Students aren’t just teaching the Scribblers how to move; they’re teaching them how to dance, how to draw, and how to create music–a sort of artistic dynamo.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Ami Shah, a 21-year-old senior biology major. “I’ve learned a lot from this class, and I think it’s a really handy skill.”

Professors are planning to expand the class from around 30 students to more than 200 next semester and are exporting the class to two other Georgia schools in the fall.

Georgia Tech, which has branded the robot the “new face of computing,” is hoping that the class can be a new national model to teach students computing. To Microsoft Corp., which is investing $1 million to jump-start the program at Georgia Tech and Bryn Mawr, it’s an investment in what could become its work force.

Outside groups have applauded the effort, too.

“In fact, computing is a tool that can be used for virtually every application–from entertainment to medicine,” said Virginia Gold of the Association for Computing Machinery. “And the Scribbler helps show how pervasive computers are in everything.”

The computing industry has a reason to be concerned about the future.

The number of new computer science majors has steadily declined since 2000, falling from close to 16,000 students to only 7,798 last fall, according to the Computing Research Association.

And the downward trend isn’t expected to reverse soon. The association says about 1 percent of incoming freshmen have indicated computer science as a probable major, a 70 percent drop from the rate in 2000.

The aftermath of the dot-com bust might have triggered the exodus, but computer scientists admit they’ve also been slow to adapt to the changes by reprogramming their teaching methods.

The Scribbler is just one aspect of Georgia Tech’s efforts to transform the study of computer science. Last fall, the school launched a totally redesigned framework for earning a computer-science degree. Dubbed “Threads,” the program shuns a traditional degree in favor of a more personalized approach–one that aims to make every course students enroll in more relevant to their professional aspirations. (See ‘Threads’ wends new approach to computer science,

Although the Scribbler is one of several methods to lure more students to the field, its popularity has surprised educators. Some 30 schools already have expressed interest in the course, said Deepak Kumar, the chair of Bryn Mawr’s computer science department.

“It’s fresh and new and engaging,” said Kumar, who teaches a class of 24 Scribbler-wielding students. “We’ve got our fingers on one way to solve the problem.”

Balch, who is watching the students from the corner of the classroom, is happy to agree: “It beats prime numbers,” he says.


Institute for Personal Robots in Education

Association for Computing Machinery

Computing Research Association

Georgia Tech

Bryn Mawr


Feds solicit ed-tech feedback

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is asking school officials and education stakeholders to submit comments on the use of technology in schools.

This latest outreach initiative comes as U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is holding a series of roundtable discussions in several cities on technology in education, with educators, business leaders, information technology professionals, and others invited. (The sessions are closed to members of the press.) The goal, according to ED, is to explore specific actions to improve education outcomes through targeted applications of technology and to find a renewed perspective on the role of technology in education reform. The first of these roundtables took place in late March.

ED’s outreach also follows the release in April of a much-anticipated $10 million study on educational technology, in which the department found little or no impact on educational outcomes (see “ED study slams software efficacy”:

In light of this study, and the decline in federal funding for school technology over the last several years–from nearly $700 million in FY 2004 to $496 million in FY 2005 and then to $273 million last year and this year–advocates of educational technology say it’s important for educators to respond to ED’s solicitation.

“We’ve alerted our members, and it’s important that leaders in ed tech really do step up and provide input to the administration, and really articulate both the good things that are happening today and their vision for where technology could go,” said Keith Krueger, chief executive officer of the Consortium for School Networking.

“Educators and SETDA members welcome and are encouraged by the department’s outreach on the role of educational technology in schools,” said Mary Ann Wolf, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA). “Solid, scientifically-based research exists documenting the potential of technology to improve student achievement, to individualize instruction, and to engage students in more rigorous and engaging coursework.”

Wolf added: “Collecting information on these programs from districts, schools, and states across the country will demonstrate the breadth and depth of the importance of technology, but [it also will] emphasize that ongoing, sustainable professional development on the use of technology and access to appropriate resources are critical to technology’s role in transforming teaching and learning.”


Spellings will be listening to feedback on the following questions:

1. In what ways has technology improved the effectiveness of your classroom, school, or district?
2. Based on your role (administrator, parent, teacher, student, entrepreneur, or business leader), how have you used educational data to make better decisions or be more successful?
3. In what ways can technology help us prepare our children for global competition and reach our goals of eliminating achievement gaps and having all students read and do math on grade level by 2014?
4. What should be the federal government’s role in supporting the use of technology in our educational system?

“We know that the world in which our education system was created–the industrial world of the 19th and early 20th centuries–no longer exists,” says ED’s web site. “Today, we live in a technology-driven global marketplace where ideas and innovation outperform muscle and machine. In an age of digital content and global communications, we must build an education system that meets the new demands of our time. Technology can help us create schools where every child has the opportunity to succeed, while we work to close the achievement gap and address the economic and workforce needs of the future.”

One prominent ed-tech advocate who wished to remain nameless pointed out that ED has issued a call for feedback in the past, when developing its third National Ed-Tech Plan, but allocated no additional funding to educational technology after the feedback was received.

The department spent nearly $15 million preparing this plan, but after two years of holding forums and getting input, the plan was released and then buried, according to some industry insiders. So while these insiders say they welcome ED’s latest request for comments, they question whether the input actually will be used this time.

An ED spokesperson said a deadline for the public to submit feedback has not yet been set. The department did not respond to an eSchool News reporter’s request for additional comments before press time.

To submit your feedback on educational technology, visit ED’s web site, or eMail responses to


Technology in Education Input Form

Consortium for School Networking

State Educational Technology Directors Association


California district harnesses IT incidents with ITDirect

It’s true–you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. But in Delma Juarez’s case, it was an uncooperative “pony.”

In the early 1990s, Franklin McKinley School District in San Jose, Calif., was tracking IT incident requests using paper forms and a plastic inbox, affectionately known as the “pony.” This was the final resting place for many IT requests, which often were never routed to the IT staff. “The request might sit in the pony for several days, and most times the pony would eat it,” said Juarez, director of information technology for the district.

Even when the IT staff received their incident requests, they couldn’t efficiently track or report on incidents using only the “pony” system and a combination of Excel spreadsheets and eMail. So the department later tried a “help-desk solution,” but it was dropped after only four months because district users found it too complicated.

Then Juarez found’s ITDirect help-desk management solution, which proved to be a “knight on [a] white horse” for the 9,900-student district. “We were so pleased that it was designed with IT in mind–it had everything we needed,” Juarez said. With ITDirect, the district was able to win battles that many school IT departments face:

• Ensuring receipt of IT requests: All IT requests are now submitted online, tracked, routed, and assigned for completion through ITDirect.

• Eliminating licensing limits: ITDirect features unlimited user licenses, enabling all of the district’s more than 850 employees to submit IT requests at no additional cost.

• Improving responsiveness: With ITDirect, the IT staff can view incidents from any computer, enabling technicians to respond more quickly to requesters and greatly improving customer service.

• Reducing system maintenance: ITDirect requires no software installation, upgrades, or backup for both requesters and the IT staff.

• Developing reporting capability: The IT department can easily generate reports to track and show completion of IT incidents, including costs and staff productivity.

• Increasing productivity: ITDirect has helped the IT department improve efficiency by streamlining incident management processes. Now, four IT technicians are effectively maintaining 2,000 computers and more than 2,000 pieces of peripheral equipment.

But Juarez was impressed by more than SchoolDude’s ITDirect solution. After working with the SchoolDude team, she said, “SchoolDude has built a culture of friendly, knowledgeable, down to-earth, commonsense people. I have met with other software companies, and they’ve had an arrogance. I prefer the sincere and honest manner of SchoolDude.”

Now that’s a horse of a different color.


Franklin McKinley School District



New bill would revamp ed-tech funding

Three Democratic and one Republican lawmaker on May 23 introduced legislation designed to ensure no child is left behind when it comes to technology.

Numerous education organizations hailed the new bill—H.R. 2449, the Achievement Through Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) Act–saying it will make significant improvements to the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program as part of the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Although specific funding levels have not yet been reported in association with the measure, ATTAIN will enable states and school districts to improve support for the educational needs of today’s students through the use of technology, ed-tech groups said. At press time, the text of H.R. 2449 had not yet been received from the Government Printing Office, according to the web site of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Introduced by Democratic Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, Ruben Hinojosa of Texas, and Ron Kind of Wisconsin, as well as Republican Rep. Judy Biggert of Illinois, the ATTAIN Act would overhaul EETT, improving support for disadvantaged schools and students and ensuring that teachers are properly equipped to use technology effectively. More specifically, it would focus funds on professional development and systemic reform that leverage 21st-century technologies, prioritize funding to schools in need of improvement, and require states to assess whether students have attained technological literacy by the eighth grade.

The ATTAIN Act is based on input from education stakeholders, including the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), and Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA).

“When schools are properly equipped to meet the technology needs of students, and when they have properly trained teachers, students are engaged, eager to learn, and are ultimately better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” said Roybal-Allard.

“One of the most effective ways we can sharpen America’s competitive edge is by investing in technology in the classroom,” said Hinojosa. “This bill will further the technological prowess of our nation’s schools and students and ultimately will increase our economic prosperity and capacity for innovation.”

The primary source of federal funding for school technology, EETT is a block-grant program in which the federal government doles out funding to the states, which then pass this funding on to local districts. States must distribute 50 percent of the funds competitively and the other half by formula.

The program has seen its share of funding decline from nearly $700 million in FY 2004 to $496 million in FY 2005 and then to $273 million last year and this year. Advocates of educational technology say this steady erosion of funds has severely curtailed many states’ and school districts’ ed-tech programs–and it makes no sense, they say, given the president’s stated commitment to ensuring the global competitiveness of American students.

Ed-tech groups who helped influence the bill say they hope it will target these funds more effectively, while also leading to broader support for educational technology.

“We are ecstatic that this well-crafted refinement of EETT is beginning to move,” said Don Knezek, chief executive officer of ISTE. “Teachers are our nation’s most valuable resources and absolutely crucial to whether educational technology implementations succeed. The ATTAIN Act’s focus on technology professional development will help ensure that our investments in school hardware, software, and infrastructure are leveraged for the benefit of our nation’s students.”

“The introduction of the ATTAIN Act demonstrates that Representatives Roybal-Allard, Hinojosa, Biggert, and Kind understand the important role that educational technology plays in meeting NCLB’s goals and equipping our students with the skills necessary to succeed in the modern workforce,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “We hope that the House will follow their lead and move expeditiously to enact this bill, thereby giving a big shot in the arm to educational technologists, students, and companies across the country.”

The ATTAIN Act would increase the share of state-to-local funding distributed by formula from 50 percent to 60 percent, adding a minimum grant size to ensure that more school districts receive allocations of sufficient size to permit them to operate significant ed-tech programs.

It also would update EETT by strengthening the program’s emphasis on teacher quality and technology skills by raising the portion of formula grants set aside for professional development from 25 percent to 40 percent, while emphasizing the importance of timely and ongoing training.

“For many years, SETDA’s members have provided us with tangible examples of educational technology implementations that yield substantial academic gains; now, we will have the opportunity to bring many of them to scale,” said Mary Ann Wolf, executive director of SETDA. “This legislation’s focus on research-based, systemic reform programs that maximize the benefits of technology is an important opportunity to transform our nation’s schools.”

“We do not want our students to fall behind in this era of innovation and global competition,” said Ken Wasch, SIIA president. “Technology is vital for providing students with a learning environment that prepares them for the world beyond the classroom. The ATTAIN Act will ensure our educational system adopts modern methods to remain effective in the digital, information economy. We thank Representatives Roybal-Allard, Hinojosa, Biggert, and Kind for their leadership on this important legislation.”

Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, a national Hispanic civil-rights and advocacy organization, said: “The ATTAIN Act will help ensure that even the most underresourced schools, including those where children who are learning English are concentrated, have the ability to prepare all students to meet the goals of NCLB and the needs of the 21st-century economy.” In addition to its other functions, the ATTAIN Act would update EETT by more closely aligning the program with NCLB’s core mission by giving priority in competitive grant awards to schools identified as in need of improvement, including those with a large percentage of “limited English proficient” students and students with disabilities, as well as by focusing formula grants on students and subjects where proficiency is most lacking.

The legislation also would draw state, district, and school attention to the age and functionality needs of school technology infrastructure, access, and applications, by requiring states to provide technical assistance and guidance to districts on updating these resources.

On May 16, Roybal-Allard testified before the House Committee on Education and Labor about the importance of using technology in the classroom to help students do better in school.

“Obtaining critical technological skills is of greatest concern to low-income minority students who are falling further behind their higher-income peers in terms of 21st-century college and workplace skills,” said Roybal-Allard, who serves on the Appropriations Education Subcommittee, which has funding jurisdiction over the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and federal education programs. “An effective federal program that provides access to technology for low-income and minority students will help to close this gap.”


Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif.

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas

Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis.

Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill.

Consortium for School Networking

International Society for Technology in Education

Software and Information Industry Association

State Educational Technology Directors Association

National Council of La Raza


SchoolNet Receives Codie Award for Best K-12 Enterprise Solution

May 24, 2007 (NEW YORK, NY) – SchoolNet, Inc., the leading provider of enterprise solutions for K-12, has won the 2007 Codie Award for "Best K-12 Enterprise Solution."

The Codie awards are presented annually by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA). The Codie Awards program showcases the software and information industry´s finest products and services. Now in its twenty-first year, the Codie Awards program remains the standard-bearer for celebrating outstanding achievement and vision in the industry. More information on this year?s Codie Awards can be found at:

The Codie Award recognized SchoolNet?s impact on more than 2 million students across more than 50 U.S. school districts including Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. SchoolNet allows school districts to analyze data, develop instructional strategies and measure the impact in real-time from superintendent to principal to student to families.

"It is gratifying to be recognized by our peers for the quality of our products and technology," said Jonathan D. Harber, president and CEO of SchoolNet, Inc.

About SchoolNet, Inc.
SchoolNet, Inc. is the leader in Internet Applications for Public Schools, helping K-12 school systems to improve efficiency and increase achievement. SchoolNet´s School Performance Management systems are built upon an open, scalable platform that provides users with the data, reports, tools, and content to develop talent, individualize instruction, and ensure school improvement. SchoolNet´s solutions are used successfully by some of the nation?s largest school districts including Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. SchoolNet is won 2007 Codie Award for Best K-12 Enterprise Solution and is recognized by both Inc. Magazine?s Top 500 List and Deloitte?s Fast 50 as one of the fastest growing private companies in the country. SchoolNet was founded in 1998 by technology entrepreneur and MIT graduate Jonathan D. Harber and education author and analyst Denis P. Doyle. For more information, please visit