Glitch stops Va. online exam

The Washington Post reports that Virginia state officials have announced that a glitch in the online administration of the state’s Standards of Learning exams has forced school districts to re-administer 2,900 tests. While some students were taking the tests, their computer screens suddenly turned blue and displayed an error message. This glitch comes at a crucial time, as the Standards of Learning exams are used to determine whether schools meet both state and NCLB standards…


Pearson buys eCollege in $538M deal

In a move that could strengthen competition in the market for online course management systems, educational publishing giant Pearson PLC said its Pearson Education unit is buying, which sells eLearning systems to K-12 and higher-education institutions, in a deal worth approximately $538 million.

Under terms of the transaction, eCollege shareholders will receive $22.45 in cash for each share they own–a 28-percent premium over the company’s average closing share price during the previous 90 trading days. In addition, eCollege’s Datamark enrollment marketing division will be sold for $41 million to an investor group led by Oakleigh Thorne, eCollege’s chairman and chief executive. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter, subject to eCollege shareholder approval.

eCollege, founded in 1996, works with schools to design, build, and support online degree, certificate, diploma, and professional development programs. It provides a full range of on-demand software services, including course management, virtual campuses, and assessment, reporting, and retention monitoring tools. The company also provides a suite of support services, including hosting, help desk, course development, technical consulting, instructional design, and faculty training.

eCollege supports approximately 180 institutions and its customers, including DeVry University, Kaplan University, Laureate, Texas A&M University at Commerce, and Eastern Michigan University. In 2006, student enrollments in its online courses were reported to be approximately 1.2 million.

Analysts say the deal is expected to boost competition in the eLearning systems market, which has been dominated by Blackboard Inc., especially after Blackboard acquired WebCT in late 2005. At the time of that merger, a survey done by Market Data Retrieval found that Blackboard and WebCT held the top two slots in the learning management systems market for U.S. colleges and universities, with a combined market share of more than 80 percent.

But Blackboard has angered many schools with its aggressive competitive stance, suing smaller rival Desire2Learn for infringement of a patent that many industry watchers contend is overly broad. Though Blackboard eased some concerns when it said it wouldn’t use its patent rights to sue open-source course management projects, the ill will caused by the company’s moves has created an opening for the competition, many believe.

And with the resources of Pearson now behind it, eCollege could be the leading candidate to challenge Blackboard’s dominance in the eLearning space, analysts say.

Pearson’s acquisition of eCollege makes the company “a formidable competitor,” Peter Stokes, executive vice president of Eduventures Inc., told Inside Higher Ed. “You now have an 800-pound gorilla at the table,” he added, referring to Pearson.

Pearson is an industry leader in the use of technology to improve learning, with a strong presence in the markets for digital learning materials, student information systems, online testing, test scoring, and homework and formative assessment. Last year, Pearson generated more than $1 billion in sales from these digital learning products and services.

Pearson’s scale and reach will enable eCollege to serve new customers in school, post-secondary education, and professional/vocational markets, both in the U.S. and around the world, Pearson said in a press release. The two companies will reduce costs by eliminating eCollege’s corporate costs and sharing hosting, technical, and support services.

Together, the companies expect to provide customers with additional value and choice. Pearson’s publishing divisions will continue to work with third-party commercial and open-source course management providers, and eCollege will continue to work with third-party publishers, Pearson said.

In 2006, eCollege generated sales of $52 million and an operating profit of $22 million before central costs (and excluding its Datamark division). From 2003 to 2006, sales reportedly grew at a compound annual rate of 22 percent.

Matthew Schnittman, president of eCollege’s eLearning division, will join Pearson and continue to lead the company. It will operate as a separate unit from Pearson’s other businesses and will retain its offices in Denver, Colorado.

“eCollege will make Pearson an even stronger education company,” said Marjorie Scardino, Pearson’s chief executive. “It has been a valued partner for some years, and we have the highest regard for its people and their skills and commitment to serving their education customers. The acquisition meets our financial goals and supports our strategy of combining content, technology, and services to advance learning.”

Blackboard put a positive face on the acquisition, issuing a statement on May 14 saying: “While Blackboard and eCollege have different primary audiences, we believe Pearson’s acquisition of eCollege highlights the tremendous growth of eLearning overall, and we see it as a positive indicator for the industry, including Blackboard’s business. Blackboard has strong relationships with all of the publishers and hopes to continue deepening its relationship with Pearson.”


Pearson Education


Blackboard Inc.

Eduventures Inc.


Special Report: eSchools Work! (Full Report part 1)

In April, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) set off a firestorm in the ed-tech community when it released a report showing that the use of certain software programs to help teach reading and math in some 439 classrooms did not lead to higher test scores after a year of implementation. (See ED study slams software efficacy.)

Read the report, and it’s easy to see why: Average use of the programs accounted for only about 10 or 11 percent of the total instructional time for the entire school year–well below what the products were designed for. But that fact didn’t stop much of the press from leaping to the too-hasty conclusion that educational technology simply isn’t working. (See Repeaters, not reporters.)

The fallout from the report, and the coverage it has received from the general press, already is being felt in school systems from coast to coast–creating a backlash against school technology in many communities. As the head of one prominent ed-tech organization told eSchool News: "I am hearing from teachers that they are getting calls from parents about those headlines–the parents are taking the headlines at face value, and the teachers don’t know how to respond."

Nobody says the report should be dismissed altogether. But, as with the negative image of a photograph, ed-tech advocates believe the report’s true value lies in its "white spaces"; that is, what is most revealing is not what did happen in the classrooms that were studied, but what didn’t happen: Teachers weren’t comfortable with the technology, there was an absence of effective leadership in many of the schools, and the software wasn’t used as often as it should have been.

While these results certainly point to the need for better software implementation in the nation’s schools, they hardly attest to the effectiveness of the technology itself. And, as eSchool News can testify after nearly a decade of reporting on educational technology, there is actually a mountain of evidence to suggest that, under the right circumstances, technology can make a difference.

That fact was confirmed in a recent "metastudy," or study of studies, that set out to determine what the balance of existing research says about technology’s impact on learning. After reviewing dozens of research reports, education researcher Cheryl Lemke of the Metiri Group concluded that, when implemented "with fidelity," technology does, indeed, provide a "small, but significant"
increase in learning across all content areas.

In an interview with eSchool News, Lemke explained what is meant by the term "with fidelity":
"There’s a piece of software that has great research on it for struggling readers, called Fast ForWord," she said. "And the way the company suggests that it be used is for … six to eight weeks, for 100 minutes a day. Many educators, when we talk to them, say, ‘Oh, Fast ForWord doesn’t work,’ and when we probe a little bit, they’ll say back to us, ‘Well, we didn’t really have the computers to use it for 100 minutes a day, so instead we used it for 25 minutes every other day’–and that’s not the way it’s prescribed; it’s not being used with fidelity, so it’s not working."

Lemke added: "There is a sense that it’s easy to put technology into schools, and we know that there’s no easy answer. … [Companies] introduced technology into the business world in the 1960s, and it took them three decades before they saw a bump in productivity–and the reason for that is, they did the ‘same old, same old’ with the new technology. It took them a while to really change the way they were doing business, and the same thing is true with education. [Stakeholders] need to give [schools] a chance to … make that shift in the way they do the business of education before we’ll actually [see] that spike."

(Editor’s note: You can watch the entire seven-minute interview with Lemke here.)
In schools that have made that shift–in communities where there is strong leadership,a clear vision for using technology to improve education, sustained professionaldevelopment in the use of technology to transform instructional practices, andongoing evaluation and support–students and teachers are achieving remarkableresults, as the following pages suggest.

In this Special Report, we’ve highlighted stories from the eSchool News archives that document such ed-tech achievements and the research that validates them. We’ve also included some advice on how to lobby effectively for school technology in your own communities, as well as the keys to successful school software implementation.

Our coverage includes proof of success of a program, called eMINTS (Enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies), that has been so successful, it’s now being replicated in at least nine other states. It includes evidence of success for Maine’s school laptop program; an Arkansas program that combines technology with authentic, community-based problem solving; a link between strong media center programs in Colorado and gains in student achievement; and much more.

Report: Ed tech has proven effective
But it has yet to reach its full potential

November 1, 2006–An analysis of existing ed-tech research offers both good and bad news for advocates of educational technology: Although technology has largely had a positive impact on education so far, more dedication to research and implementation is needed for technology to realize its full potential as a teaching and learning tool.

That’s the conclusion, anyway, of "Technology in Schools: What the Research Says," a new meta-study–or study of studies–on the use and effectiveness of classroom technologies. Produced by Cisco Systems and the Metiri Group, the report summarizes general trends and representative studies in areas such as television and video use, calculators, engagement devices such as interactive whiteboards, portable or handheld devices, virtual learning, in-school computing, and one-to-one computing.

"Contrary to popular belief, much is now known about the effect of technology on learning and teaching in primary and secondary schools," the report says, adding that technology does, indeed, provide a "small, but significant," increase in learning across all uses and in all content areas when implemented "with fidelity."

For example, a review of research literature published in 2004 by the British Educational and Communications Technology Agency (BECTA) found that the use of simulations and modeling in the natural sciences resulted in increased learning and retention by students. A meta-analysis conducted by Boston College on writing with word processors across the curriculum found that students using these electronic tools wrote significantly more, received earlier interventions by teachers, and wrote higher quality work than students in comparison groups. And a 2003 study of California middle-school students found that, when compared with a control group, students using laptop computers significantly outscored students in conventional classrooms in math and language arts.

But closer attention to areas such as leadership development, professional development for teachers, and curricular design is needed to ensure the full benefits of technology implementation, the report warns …

EAST program motivates students, encourages innovation
By James Boardman

May 1, 2007–Exciting things are happening in Star City, Arkansas. This small town of a little more than 2,000 people just learned that its high school Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) program was named the 2007 recipient of the Timothy R. Stephenson Founder’s Award by the EAST Initiative, an educational nonprofit that oversees EAST programs nationally.

How did a small, rural school stand out from the field of more than 170 programs nationally? The school merely motivated its students to outperform anyone’s expectations in providing community service using very sophisticated technology tools.

Among the projects that the Star City students have undertaken are an awareness seminar on the opportunities for women in high-tech fields; a comprehensive, anti-drunk-driving program, which has led to collaboration with the Arkansas State Police on a statewide video campaign; and a seminar titled "Enough is Enough," involving local self-defense instructors and the Arkansas Attorney General’s office, that aims to raise awareness of the issues of child abuse and abduction. Any of these seminars would be worthwhile for local teens to attend, but the Star City students are actually coordinating and developing these activities. They are taking charge of their education in a way that benefits their whole community.

Where is this innovation and incredible work coming from? A program that started in Arkansas a dozen years ago, called EAST, that has been recognized nationally as an innovative, relevant, and successful approach to education. EAST combines the power of cutting-edge technology, real teamwork, and significant community service in a manner that helps students develop their own interests and aptitudes in a positive environment.

All students, regardless of past experience or previous expectations, are encouraged, expected, and required to work in teams that tackle self-selected community service projects. The EAST model allows students to take ownership of both the challenges in their communities and the responsibility for seeking solutions.

Students in this program have access to a wide variety of technologies to help them in their projects–from GIS/GPS applications, computer-aided drafting tools, and digital film tools, to high-end animation and web design tools, computer programming tools, virtual-reality design tools, and so on. The EAST classroom is equipped with more than 65 different software applications in a student-maintained network of servers, workstations, and peripherals.

Since its birth in 1995, the EAST program has gained support and recognition from groups and organizations in America and around the world. In its home state of Arkansas, EAST is heavily supported by the Arkansas Legislature and the Arkansas Department of Education, which is soon to publish the findings of a three-year scientific research study of EAST and its impact on student learning and motivation.

Preliminary results from the research have documented that EAST students have significantly improved in the areas of problem-solving skills, school motivation, and perceptions of their learning styles. EAST students are equally adept at working in groups and taking responsibility for self-directed learning. And, when comparing the plans that EAST students have after they graduate with those of their peers from similar demographics, a statistically greater number of EAST students intend to attend college …

Shared leadership makes an IMPACT in North Carolina
By Frances Bryant Bradburn and Jason W. Osborne

March 1, 2007–During the 2002-2003 school year, North Carolina school systems applied for grants to transform the instructional practices at one of their schools under a state program called IMPACT–a comprehensive model for infusing technology into teaching and learning.

North Carolina State University (NCSU) and its Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, as well as the Southeastern Regional Vision for Education (SERVE) Center at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, have been evaluating these IMPACT grant projects in 10 Title I schools and 10 comparison schools over the past three years. We’ve learned that successfully implementing instructional technology in schools requires more than just hardware and software; it seems effective leadership is the real key to success …

Study: Teacher development is a key to tech success

September 1, 2006–A new survey of teachers and their use of technology suggests there is a clear correlation between hours spent in professional development, classroom integration of technology, and improved student performance.

Technology use by teachers continues to rise, the survey indicates; three out of five teachers said their tech skills were at least "somewhat advanced," four of five think it engages students, and two in three believe it can improve performance. Professional development in the use of technology also is on the rise, according to the survey–though one in five teachers still receives no such training.

Sponsored by CDW-G, a reseller of hardware tools to schools and governments, and administered by education research firm Quality Education Data (QED), the study, called "Teachers Talk Tech 2006: Fulfilling Technology’s Promise of Improved Student Performance," polled some 1,000 K-12 public school teachers on technology’s role in the classroom. The poll offers an in-depth look at how K-12 teachers use computers in their jobs.

Teachers overwhelmingly agreed that the use of technology in the classroom makes students more engaged, and most agreed that students’ academic standing has improved as a result of technology’s use. Eighty-two percent of teachers surveyed said students are more engaged when technology is being employed in classroom activities. Sixty-five percent said students’ academic performance improves with the use of classroom computers. Teachers also noted that computers have been found to help students think more creatively (64 percent), and more independently, if those computers are in the classroom (47 percent).

But there are still obstacles to achieving technology’s promise, teachers reported. Fifty-five percent of survey respondents believe the biggest impediment to effective technology integration is access to computers; 48 percent believe they lack sufficient time to properly integrate technology into lessons; and another 48 percent say district budgets do not allow the level of technology integration they would like to see in their classrooms, the study said.

Researchers contend there is a clear link between professional development in technology use, classroom integration of technology, and improved student performance. According to the survey, 78 percent of teachers who have had at least 16 hours of professional development in technology say they incorporate 21st-century skills into their curriculum, and 66 percent believe teaching those skills strengthens skills for standardized testing. Similarly, 74 percent of teachers who have had at least 16 hours of professional development believe students’ academic performance is enhanced with the use of classroom computers, the study found–that’s 9 points higher than the percentage of teachers overall who hold this belief.

"I think the biggest ‘aha’ of the study is that we are starting to see a direct correlation between hours of professional development and how thoroughly technology is being integrated into the classroom," said Bob Kirby, CDW-G’s senior director for K-12 education. "These are things we’ve always suspected, but now we have some actual statistics through the surveys that validate the correlations" …

Online field trips boost reading scores

May 19, 2005–A free collection of online field trips and other web-based learning materials has been shown to boost reading levels and help improve test scores among middle-school students, according to the results of a scientifically based research study from Maryland Public Television (MPT).

Approximately 400 seventh and eighth graders from two Maryland public middle schools–one urban, one rural–participated in the study, which took place during the 2003-04 school year and was released in late April. The study showed that seventh and eighth graders who used three online field trips–each specifically developed by MPT for social studies and language arts–scored higher on a national standardized reading comprehension test than those who used traditional learning methods alone.

Though relatively small in size and scope, the study’s findings could have national implications for educators who embrace the internet as a tool for learning, executives at the nonprofit television station believe. Every teacher across the country, they say, can access these same resources at no cost by logging on to MPT’s educational web site,

"The study shows that some of the new ways we are teaching with technology are helping our students to succeed," noted Cathy Townsend, principal of Salisbury Middle School, one of the study’s participants.

Specifically, the control-based experiment showed that use of the online field trips in classroom instruction improved students’ reading performance on the Gates-MacGinitie Standardized Reading Test–a popular K-12 assessment used in several states.

"Students who used the [electronic field trips] performed better on the unit tests than the students using only traditional methods," researchers found. Results also showed improved reading comprehension among poor and economically disadvantaged students …

Continued – Special Report: eSchools Work! (Full Report part 2)


Special Report: eSchools Work! (Full Report part 2)

Video on demand boosts students’ math scores

June 29, 2004–Short video clips that reinforce key concepts are effective in increasing student achievement, according to a second research project. An earlier study found that video can improve learning in science and social studies. Now, brand-new research shows judiciously selected video clips also can produce statistically significant gains in algebra and geometry scores.

The new study, conducted by independent research firm Cometrika, headed by Franklin J. Boster, a distinguished-faculty-award winner at Michigan State University, was released June 21 during the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in New Orleans.

Approximately 2,500 sixth and eighth grade students from four Los Angeles area middle schools participated in the study. Each student was given a pre-test to assess comprehension of specific California state education standards for math, and at the end of the quarter, post-test assessments were given to gauge improvement. Throughout the quarter, teachers assigned to experimental-group classes incorporated approximately 20 standards-based, core-concept video clips into their daily lessons, while teachers in control group classrooms continued with their traditional lessons.

Boster and his team found that sixth-grade students whose teachers showed them video clips during instruction improved an average of five percentage points more than students in the control group during post-testing. Eighth-grade students in Los Angeles improved an average of three percentage points more than students in the control group.

The clips came from the unitedstreaming video-on-demand (VOD) service provided by United Learning, a division of Discovery Education, whose parent company produces the Discovery Channel …

Studies validate laptop programs in U.S., Canada

From eSchool News staff and wire service reports

March 1, 2004–Two recent studies of schoolwide one-to-one computing initiatives–one in the United States and one in Canada–suggest that using laptops in the classroom can help improve students’ writing skills and bolster overall academic success. The studies come as an increasing number of states and school districts are rolling out laptop programs of their own.

In Maine, educators at the Piscataquis Community High School (PCHS) in the rural community of Guilford are touting the results of a survey released in January, demonstrating that laptops can have a significant positive impact on learning, especially for at-risk and traditionally low-achieving students. Researchers say the results might help sway lawmakers as they consider expanding to high schools the state’s current laptop program for middle school students.

And in British Columbia, another one-to-one computing study finds that students who use laptop computers to complete their writing assignments can boost their English scores by an average of 30 percent. According to the report, at least 150 middle school students at the Peace River North School District in northern British Columbia showed "vast improvements" in their writing ability last year after wireless laptops were integrated into the classroom.

This year, 90 percent of students who used the machines met the province’s writing standards. Before the laptop program, only 70 percent of students were able to meet the requirements, the study said.

The Maine study, undertaken by the independent Mitchell Institute and conducted by the Great Maine Schools Project with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is among the first to examine one-to-one computing in a high school environment. The findings reflect information gleaned from the first two years of the project.

In all, 285 students in grades 9-12 and all 26 teachers were given a laptop computer to use at home and at school. Every machine was outfitted with a wireless access card to provide access to the internet from anywhere on campus.

Seventy-nine percent of the students said laptops make lessons more interesting, and 60 percent said they felt more motivated to complete assignments using a laptop.

What’s more, most students agree that laptops have improved the quality of their schoolwork. According to the study, more than half (54 percent) of students say having a laptop has improved their grades, and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of teachers agree that student achievement in their classes has improved since the laptop program began.

According to the study, more than 70 percent of teachers reported that the laptop program has improved student interaction with teachers and has improved interaction among students, especially those traditionally defined as "at-risk" or "low-achieving." More than three-quarters of teachers said the laptops had improved their students’ engagement, class participation, motivation, ability to work in groups, and ability to work independently …

Missouri’s ed-tech program is raising student achievement

March 13, 2002–An analysis of student test scores in Missouri offers solid evidence to suggest that using technology to facilitate an inquiry-based approach to learning can boost student achievement.

Students who participated in Missouri’s educational technology program scored "consistently higher in every subject area" on the state’s standardized test compared with students not involved in the program, according to an analysis of last year’s test results.

The study, called "Analysis of 2001 MAP Results for eMINTS Students," compared the results of the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) for more than 6,000 third- and fourth-graders.

The eMINTS program–which stands for Enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies–was found to have "a positive impact on student achievement."

eMINTS combines multimedia and computer technology, an inquiry-based approach to teaching, and extensive professional development.

Each eMINTS classroom is equipped with a teacher’s desktop computer and laptop, a scanner, a color printer, a digital camera, an interactive whiteboard, a high-lumen digital projector, and one computer for every two students. Student computers are loaded only with basic productivity software, such as Microsoft Office, and all computers have high-speed internet connections.

eMINTS teachers undergo 200 hours of professional development along with in-class coaching and mentoring over a two-year period. Teachers learn to integrate technology and emphasize critical thinking and problem-solving skills in their instruction.

Teachers are required to use technology within their district’s curriculum in ways that make learning significant, rather than just reading and reciting, said Monica Beglau, instructional program director for eMINTS.

"For example, instead of giving a lecture on gravity, a teacher [might have] students design an M&M dispenser to be used on a space shuttle," she said. Together, the class would research gravity and how astronauts eat in space, using web sites displayed on an interactive whiteboard. Students would listen to audio clips, look at pictures, and watch movies. Then, they would begin developing their own dispensers.

For the purposes of this study, researchers analyzed test scores from 85 eMINTS classrooms and 203 non-eMINTS classrooms within the same schools. The 85 eMINTS classrooms began participating in the fall of 1999 and were fully equipped and operational for two years before the students were tested in the spring of 2001.

Results show that a higher percentage of students in eMINTS classrooms scored in the "Proficient" or "Advanced" categories–the top two achievement levels out of five possible levels of performance–when compared with other students who took the MAP tests, the study found:

• In third-grade communication arts, 36 percent of eMINTS students scored in the "Proficient" or "Advanced" categories, compared with 34.4 percent of non-eMINTS students in the same schools and 32.8 percent of students statewide.

• In third-grade science, 53.7 percent of eMINTS students scored in the "Proficient" or "Advanced" categories, compared with 50.7 percent of non-eMINTS students in the same schools and 45.2 percent of students statewide.

• In fourth-grade mathematics, 47.1 percent of eMINTS students scored in the "Proficient" or "Advanced" categories, compared with 39.7 percent of non-eMINTS students in the same schools and 36.7 percent of students statewide. "This difference is statistically significant, meaning that the differences in these scores are greater than could be expected to occur by chance alone," Beglau said.

• In fourth-grade social studies, 52 percent of eMINTS students scored in the "Proficient" or "Advanced" categories, compared with 41.6 percent of non-eMINTS students in the same schools and 37.7 percent of students statewide. "This difference is also statistically significant and is the largest for all areas tested," Beglau said.

Researchers also analyzed individual test scores and found that students in special statuses–such as special-education students, Title I students, and students eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program–showed substantial increases in their MAP scores when enrolled in eMINTS classrooms.

"We have students in our test groups from every category–rural, poor, urban, rich," Beglau said. "With eMINTS’ technology-based program and inquiry-based instruction, they can all achieve at the same level" …

Study: Technology boosts student performance

October 2, 2000–For advocates of classroom technology, a new study linking technology with student achievement provides welcome news: The use of educational technology in Illinois public schools has had "a small but significant impact" on student performance, according to a statistical analysis.

The Illinois State Board of Education commissioned Westat, a research firm based in Rockville, Md., to find out how the state’s classrooms use technology and what affect computers and the internet have had on student performance.

The state has spent nearly $240 million on technology grants to schools since 1995. After completing a two-and-a-half-year study, Westat concluded that Illinois’ investment in learning technologies appears to be paying off.

"We are beginning to see a relationship between technology in the classroom and student achievement," said Gary Silverstein, principal investigator for the study. "In schools where [technology] usage was the highest, students’ scores on certain subjects tended to be higher."

Westat researchers surveyed 440 elementary, middle, and high school principals twice to measure the scope and implementation of educational technology. They also surveyed 718 teachers from the same schools to find out about their use of technology in the classroom.

In addition, the researchers visited 15 schools that were making effective use of technology and five schools that weren’t. They also conducted telephone interviews with 28 teachers and 28 technology coordinators, and they analyzed the state’s standardized test scores.

The researchers’ questions focused on technology access, use, competency, student learning, productivity, best practices, and factors that influence these items.

To determine the impact of technology on student achievement, Westat statistically analyzed the following variables: poverty, access to educational technology, professional development, extent of technology use, and scores from the state’s 1998-99 standardized tests.

The statistical analysis shows in cases where teachers’ use of technology to facilitate or enhance classroom instruction was high, standardized test scores also were high.

Technology’s impact was strongest in the higher grades, but not in every subject area. It had the greatest influence on 11th-grade science and 10th-grade reading test scores.

Westat also found technology use was positively influenced by the amount of access and teacher training a school had.

The study "certainly suggests the state’s investment was a good one," Silverstein said. "There certainly was a pay-off" …

Strong media centers boost students’ test scores, study says

August 1, 2000–When K-12 students have access to a well-staffed, high-quality media center, their test scores tend to go up.

At least, that’s the conclusion of a recent study by the Library Research Service (LRS), a partnership between the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado State Library. The study suggests that providing the most skilled library staff and a state-of-the-art, interactive media center is a sound investment in student achievement.

The Colorado researchers said their findings replicated the results of similar studies done previously in Alaska and Pennsylvania.

According to one of the study’s authors, Keith Curry Lance, the survey shows an increase in reading scores on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) as certain aspects of library media technology improve.

"How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards: The Second Colorado Study," released in June, defines an "outstanding" library media program as one that includes program development, collaboration between the library media specialist and teachers, information technology resources, and frequent visits to the library media center by individual students.

Researchers found that CSAP reading scores increased in proportion to gains in the number of hours library media specialists put in for every 100 students. Other factors that led to increased CSAP scores included the number of print volumes per student, the number of periodical subscriptions per student, the number of electronic reference guides per student, and total library media expenditures per student.

"When we conducted the recent Colorado study … we found the improvement of test scores runs 18 percent higher in elementary schools with stronger programs and 10 to 15 percent higher in secondary schools," Lance said.

Staffing for media and technology programs is one key to creating a successful media center and garnering higher test scores, according to the researchers.

"The most important role the library media specialist serves is being a master teacher and a special consultant for educators," Lance said. "Schools trying to cut corners by removing a librarian add a handicap to every teacher in the school. Library media specialists are supposed to teach information literacy and provide in-service training to educators."

Another measure for "outstanding" media center status is access to technology.

The technology component of the study addressed the number of computers in the media center and throughout the school, the number of machines connected to the internet, and the number of computers with access to licensed data programs, such as Lexis-Nexis. As the number of electronic resources available to students increased, so did their test scores, researchers found …

ETS study shows computers can help … or hurt … learning

November 1, 1998–One of the nation’s first large-scale studies examining the use of computers in schools has found that, when used selectively by trained teachers, computers improve the math performance of students. But when used ineffectively–as in repetitive "drill and kill" practice–computers actually inhibit students’ math achievement.

The study, released Sept. 29, was conducted by a researcher at Educational Testing Service (ETS) in Princeton, N.J., and sponsored by the Milken Exchange on Education Technology and Education Week. It offers solid evidence of what works and what doesn’t when computers are used in classrooms.

Students who spent the most time at a computer in school actually scored lower than their peers on a national math test, the study found. Students who used "drill and practice" software also scored lower. But students who used computers for simulations and real-life applications of math concepts scored higher, especially those students in middle school.

The study suggests that school districts should focus attention on professional development for teachers to make sure they know how to use computers with their students effectively …

Study links technology to student achievement: Comprehensive research documents learning gains

May 1, 1999–A study by researchers at Columbia University suggests that West Virginia’s use of educational technology has directly led to significant gains in reading, math, and language skills among the state’s K-6 students.

Commissioned by the Milken Exchange on Education Technology, the report marks the first time a long-term statewide technology program has been studied for its effectiveness in schools–and some of the first real evidence supporting the use of computers to improve basic skills in the early grades.

The study examined West Virginia’s Basic Skills/Computer Education (BS/CE) program, one of the nation’s longest-running statewide programs for implementing technology in education.

Launched in 1990, the BS/CE program now encompasses all students in grades K-6. The program consists of three components: (1) integrated learning system software that focuses on the state’s basic skills goals; (2) enough computers so that each student has easy and regular access to the software; and (3) training for teachers in the use of the software to improve student learning.

According to the West Virginia Department of Education, scores have steadily risen on state standardized tests and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) since the program’s initial implementation. In fact, West Virginia was one of only two states cited for three categories of improvement in NAEP math achievement in 1996, the department said.

The Milken study, led by Profs. Dale Mann of the Columbia University Teachers College and Charol Shakeshaft of Hofstra University, suggests that as much as one-third of the gains made by the state’s K-6 students can be directly attributed to the BS/CE program. The study also concludes that West Virginia’s program is more cost-effective than hiring more teachers or reducing class sizes.

The study "shows that the nay-sayers were wrong–with proper teacher training, you can use technology in the classroom to improve the achievement of all students, regardless of their gender, race, or level of income," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Henry Marockie …


How to lobby effectively for school technology

Supporters of education reform and increased funding for school technology should make their voices heard on Capitol Hill, but they must make sure their efforts are carefully targeted, on point, respectful, and professional: Those were the key messages delivered during two separate events held just days apart in Washington, D.C.

At a presentation during the American Association of School Administrators’ annual Legislative Advocacy Conference on April 20, attendees learned how to communicate as effectively as possible with members of Congress as they state their case for changes to the federal No Child Left Behind Act and other school-reform efforts. Two days later, supporters of school technology received many of the same lessons at an event hosted by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

The lessons learned during both events can be applied to any education advocacy efforts–but they’re especially timely in light of renewed ed-tech criticism. And though they refer to federal and state lobbying efforts in particular, these lessons are equally useful for lobbying school boards and other key decision-making institutions.

Nearly 80 ed-tech leaders from more than 20 U.S. states convened in Washington April 22 for the first-ever ISTE State Advocacy Capacity-Building Conference, which focused on developing relationships with state policy makers, leveraging conferences and other events, and using communications tools to lobby effectively for state-level policies, programs, and funding for school technology. Most participants, and many of the presenters, were members of ISTE’s state affiliate organizations.

Following this grassroots advocacy event, members of ISTE and other leading ed-tech groups took to Capitol Hill April 23 and 24 to meet with their Congressional representatives during a two-day federal Educational Technology Policy Summit. The summit was a joint project of ISTE, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), and the North American Council for Online Learning.

The timing of the event was significant, as Congress considers next year’s federal education budget and looks to reauthorize NCLB. Federal funding for school technology has dropped sharply over the last few years, SETDA notes in a new report–from $635 million in fiscal year 2004 to $272 million last year.

Despite this decline, there has never been a better time for educators, technology directors, and others to make their case to lawmakers, said Don Knezek, ISTE’s chief executive.

As national attention shifts to the new global economy and America’s precarious hold on economic preeminence, Knezek noted, the issue of school technology fits nicely inside the confines of more politically popular conversations about global competitiveness and the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

“We no longer have to lead by advocating for technology,” he said. Now, educators who come to Capitol Hill in search of ed-tech funding can begin their conversations by talking about issues of central importance–issues that “require the use of educational technology,” said Knezek.

Whereas the issue of technology’s role in boosting student achievement still is a topic for debate in some political circles, he said, no one openly refutes technology’s importance to the future economy.

“There is a real difference between improving students’ test scores in math and science and improving how they live and work in the real world,” noted Knezek. “If we want to be competitive, if we want to make that commitment, than we have to move to more modern and digital learning environments.”

Jill Pierce, director of technology for the Loudon County, Tenn., Board of Education and a member of the Tennessee Educational Technology Association, an ISTE affiliate organization, said she came to Washington for the opportunity to speak with elected officials about the importance of federal ed-tech funding.

“Federal funding for important programs such as the eRate and E2T2 [Enhancing Education Through Technology, the state educational technology block-grant program] are vital for rural school systems,” Pierce said.

But politicians don’t necessarily know that, she said, adding: “They’ve got to hear it from the people in the trenches.”

With so much information on so many pieces of legislation swirling through the halls of Congress on a daily basis, Pierce said, it’s difficult for elected officials to cultivate an expert’s understanding of the issues.

But by visiting Capitol Hill and talking with members of Congress and their staffs, she said, educators can make these issues more personal for lawmakers–explaining how programs such as the eRate and E2T2 are critical to their local communities and, importantly, their children.

“I think the No. 1 issue is to talk about the kids,” she said.

Though this was her first major advocacy event in Washington, Pierce said she was encouraged by the willingness of elected officials to hear and listen to her concerns. “I was very impressed with how receptive they were,” she said. “I really, truly believe that they want to do right for education.”

But they need educators’ help, she said–and that’s why it’s important for educators to take advantage of programs offered by groups such as ISTE, CoSN, and others. By working with these advocacy groups, Pierce said, educators can combine their understanding of the classroom with effective communications strategies to deliver messages that are targeted, on point, and–if all goes well–effective.

Making noise–versus making a difference

Although the internet and eMail have made it easier than ever for voters to connect with their representatives in Congress, Washington insiders say educators should use discretion when articulating their concerns to elected officials.

“Members [of Congress] tell us that they do feel communications are important to keeping their fingers on the pulse of the districts they represent,” said Kathy Goldschmidt, deputy director of the nonprofit Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), in a presentation to school administrators at AASA’s Legislative Advocacy Conference on April 20. But, given the vast amount of electronic information streaming into Congressional offices on a daily basis–some Senate offices have reported receiving as many as 50,000 eMail messages from constituents in a single week–educators need to be selective in their lobbying approach, she added.

“There’s a difference between making noise and being heard,” said Goldschmidt. “It’s a little like walking through the monkey house at the zoo–a lot of noise, but not a whole lot of meaning.”

Goldschmidt’s organization poses a number of strategies that education advocates can, and should, employ to make their communications stand out.

Though elected officials are doing a better job of embracing technology as a form of communication, she said, it’s up to constituents to craft their messages with enough care and intelligence to get them noticed.

In all cases, Goldschmidt said, Congressional communications should target undecided representatives; combine several different advocacy strategies, including face-to-face meetings and print and online campaigns; be timely; and, perhaps most importantly, be personal.

When composing messages to Congress, CMF recommends that every message should come from a constituent. Each message should be timely and sent when it’s likely to have the most impact, such as before a major vote or committee meeting. Messages also should be well-informed, demonstrating that the writer has taken the time to research the issue and understands his or her representative’s stance on it.

In addition, CMF said, all messages should include the name or affiliation of the constituent and should be sent only to members of Congress who are in a position to do something about the issue at hand.

Among the most effective forms of communication, according to CMF research, are face-to-face visits with members of Congress or their staffs and the drafting of personalized letters or eMails, including personal anecdotes and stories about how certain pieces of legislation are affecting the local community.

Conversely, CMF says, the least effective way to reach out to Congress is through the creation of mass mailings or electronic form letters.

Goldschmidt said members of Congress and their staff have complained that form letters are untrustworthy and often lack the emotional pull necessary to sway lawmakers on divisive issues.

“There is a little science about getting in touch with Capitol Hill,” said Goldschmidt. “But more than anything, it’s about being genuine … about getting your message heard.”


Verizon Business Notification Services Will Enable Immediate, Flexible Communications for Fairleigh Dickinson University

BASKING RIDGE, N.J.–Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) will be able to instantly notify its 12,000-plus student body, staff and faculty of unforeseen events and disruptions such as snow days, floods and major schedule changes, using Verizon Business Notification Services.

These new capabilities will enable the university to personalize and customize communications to more effectively manage changing conditions. Students, faculty, administrators and staff will be able to choose how they want to be reached during an emergency — including text or voice messages, e-mail, or a combination of these methods. The text- messaging options make the system ideal for students and other highly mobile groups.

Additionally, this service provides two-way interactivity between senders such as college administrators and recipients such as students and professors. FDU, New Jersey?s largest private university, is situated on two campuses in the state–The College at Florham in Madison and The Metropolitan Campus in Teaneck.

"Keeping in touch with our student body, faculty and staff during times of crisis is critical to ensuring the safety of our university population," said CIO Neal Sturm of Fairleigh Dickinson University. "We know from experience that when something unexpected occurs, every minute matters.
"With an effective communications system in place, we can provide immediate and valuable information no matter where our students are or which campus they attend."

Nancy Gofus, chief marketing officer and senior vice president of Verizon Business, said, "Verizon Business is in the business of providing solutions to our customers. This is a great example of how we are using innovative technology to help universities and colleges enhance their ability to communicate quickly and effectively."

With the ability to reach recipients through a variety of communication methods, Verizon Business Notification Services supply an effective alternative to e-mail-only communications. E-mail can take minutes and sometimes hours to reach students who might be roaming around campus all day or commuting to school.

This offering replaces outdated cumbersome and time-consuming manual calling trees that were once the norm. It provides advanced features, including automatic conference bridging, real-time performance tracking, priority delivery and message-receipt tracking for more effective communication. Additionally, authorized users of the system can create and activate alerts via the Web-based portal or any telephone, adding an unmatched layer of convenience and responsiveness.
The service uses a highly resilient, multiserver architecture with built-in redundancy, overcoming the shortcomings of traditional, premises-based notification systems with single points-of-failure. By delivering timely communications via a hosted notification and message delivery platform, enterprise customers can gain a flexible and cost-efficient method to reach virtually anyone, on most any device.

Verizon Business offers a broad range of business continuity services. Through its comprehensive consulting and planning services, customers can conduct business impact assessments, network assessments, gap analyses, strategy workshops, asset inventory development and vulnerability assessments. The portfolio also includes a virtual file-sharing service, Resilient Network Attached Storage, that centralizes file management, security and business recovery functions, and helps ensure efficient remote access to critical business files.

In addition, Verizon Business offers a wide range of communications services that can be critical components of any business continuity plan. These services include resilient voice and data networking, security services, information technology and data center solutions, network-embedded applications, managed network services and satellite services, as well as a variety of collaboration and conferencing, remote access and telecommuting services.

About Verizon Business

Verizon Business, a unit of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ), is a leading provider of advanced communications and information technology (IT) solutions to large business and government customers worldwide. Combining unsurpassed global network reach with advanced technology and professional service capabilities, Verizon Business delivers innovative and seamless business solutions to customers around the world. For more information, visit


21 Star Teachers Recognized by Bright House Networks

ORLANDO (May 16, 2007)–Bright House Networks will honor 21 teachers who have been selected as some of the most creative teachers at the annual Star Teacher Awards gala on Monday, June 4. The event will be held at Soundstage 33 at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla. The Star Teacher Awards program is in its 18th year, and recognizes teachers who use Cable in the Classroom to help develop innovative classroom projects that enhance the learning experience for their students. The 2007 Bright House Networks Star Teacher Awards program is sponsored by Discovery Education and NBC Universal Cable.

Along with attending the gala, hosted by NBC Universal Cable, Bright House Networks is recognizing each winning teacher with a share of a $10,000 cash prize, an all expense paid educational trip to Chicago, Ill., and a Crystal Star trophy. In addition, for each school that has a Star Teacher Award winner, a new laptop computer will be donated to the school´s media center.

"Our Star Teacher Awards program underscores our commitment to supporting quality education in our communities by honoring these innovative teachers and the creative opportunities they bring to each student in their classroom," said John Rigsby, president of Bright House Networks.

The Star Teacher Awards competition is open to educators in all six Bright House Networks divisions. An independent panel of judges selected ten out of a total of 35 entries. The projects were judged on overall program content, relevance to the curriculum, learning benefits to students, innovative approach, quality of materials and activities, duration of the project, frequency and effective use of cable programming and number of students impacted.

Bright House Networks provides the connection and basic cable service free to virtually all schools in the company´s service areas. Connected schools receive more than 540 hours of commercial-free, educational programming each month at no charge through Bright House Networks membership in Cable in the Classroom.

Lead Sponsorship of the 2006–2007 Bright House Networks Star Teacher Awards program is provided this year by Discovery Education. The host sponsor of the awards gala is NBC Universal Cable. Other sponsors include Univision, Ovation–The Arts Network, The History Channel, Scientific-Atlanta, Scripps Network, HBO, and Hallmark Channel.

"Discovery is proud to support the Bright House Networks Star Teacher Awards program, which honors outstanding teachers who are committed to enhancing the classroom experience by integrating educational programming in their lessons," said Bill Goodwyn, President, Domestic Distribution and Enterprises, Discovery Communications, Inc. "These educators are passionate, innovative and dedicated, and we share their belief that connecting students to the best educational content through technology makes a positive impact on their learning."

"We´re pleased to partner with Bright House Networks and sponsor the Star Teacher Award program again this year," commented Henry Ahn, Executive Vice President, NBC Universal TV Networks Distribution. "The awards symbolize the dedication and passion that these teachers have demonstrated throughout the year and we couldn´t be more proud to support such a dynamic group of educators."

Soundstage 33 is located at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla.

About Bright House Networks

Bright House Networks is the nation´s 6th largest MSO with over 2 million customers in several large markets including Bakersfield, California; Birmingham, Alabama; Detroit, Michigan; Indianapolis, Indiana; Orlando, Florida (Central Florida Division) and Tampa Bay, Florida along with several other smaller systems in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The high-growth Tampa/Central Florida markets are contiguous and form one of the country´s largest cable clusters.

Exceptional customer service is the company´s cornerstone of its business and top priority across all operating units. Bright House Networks local, customer service centers are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, including holidays. Public affairs, social responsibility and community involvement continue as major initiatives for the company as an ongoing commitment to the families and communities Bright House Networks serves. This includes long-term commitments to education and to what matters in the lives of Bright House Networks communities.

Bright House Networks also owns and operates two 24-hour local news operations; Central Florida News 13, News 13 Weather NOW, Central Florida on Demand, and serving the Orlando area, and serving Tampa; Bay News 9, Bay News 9 En Español, Travel Weather Now, Tampa Bay on Demand and

About Discovery Education

Discovery Education is a division of Discovery Communications, the leading global real-world and knowledge-based media company. The leader in digital video-based learning, Discovery Education produces and distributes high-quality digital video content in easy-to-use formats, in all core-curricular subject areas. Discovery Education is committed to creating scientifically proven, standards-based digital resources for teachers, students, and parents that make a positive impact on student learning. Through strategic partnerships with public television stations across the country, its public service initiatives, products, and joint business ventures, Discovery Education helps educators around the world harness the power of broadband and media to connect their students to a world of learning. For more information, visit


Atomic Learning Flash Tutorials Available with Closed Captioning

Little Falls, MN–May 9, 2007–Atomic Learning is now offering closed captioning on tutorials viewed in Flash. Until recently, tutorials played in Apple?s QuickTime allowed for closed captioning, but now customers can use this feature regardless of their player preference.

Atomic Learning?s Web-based software training takes software applications and breaks them down into tasks explained through one- to three-minute tutorials. The tutorials use visual and auditory learning principles to demonstrate how to accomplish these tasks, and closed captioning allows the Deaf and hearing impaired to take advantage of software training without the need for the audio portion.

Not only do the Deaf and hearing impaired population benefit from closed-captioning. Many schools are using the closed captioning feature in computer labs, where numerous computers may be emitting sound simultaneously. Closed captioning allows students to read what the narrator is saying during the tutorials without adding to the noise level of the room, which makes it easier for learners to concentrate.

"We are always looking for ways to provide our customer with more options that meet their needs and learning styles," says Chuck Amos, Atomic Learning?s CEO. "From closed captioning to tutorials in Spanish to flexible and adaptable lesson plans, we want learners to find our training and resources easy to use and beneficial in building their technology literacy."

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 over 28,000 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 5,000 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


NetSupport School Recognized in 2007 Best Educational Software Awards From ComputED Learning Center

NetSupport School, industry-leading computer lab instruction and monitoring software, is a winner in the 2007 Best Educational Software (BESSIE) Awards from ComputEd Learning Center. NetSupport School was named as the best Teacher Productivity Solution in the "Teacher Tools" category.
Alpharetta, GA (PRWEB) May 7, 2007 — NetSupport School, industry-leading computer lab instruction and monitoring software, is a winner in the 2007 Best Educational Software (BESSIE) Awards from ComputEd Learning Center. NetSupport School was named as the best Teacher Productivity Solution in the "Teacher Tools" category.

This is the thirteenth year that ComputED Learning Center, San Diego´s leading computer education resource, has presented the BESSIE awards, recognizing innovative and content-rich programs and Web sites that provide parents and teachers with the technology to foster educational excellence. Winners are selected from titles submitted by software publishers from around the world.

"This award reflects our commitment to provide educators with the best solutions on the market today. Everyday we receive feedback from the education community about how easy our computer lab software is and how it has helped educators by giving teachers a better way to teach and students a better way to learn," said Marcus Kingsley, Group Sales & Marketing Director. "We are honored to see NetSupport School recognized by ComputED with other notable educational software products."

NetSupport School enables instructors to train students in the computer lab, simply and effectively. With NSS, instructors can make sure that those in the computer lab are making progress on their assigned tasks, using only approved applications and visiting only approved websites. Instructors can also record all screen, keyboard and mouse activity on a student workstation to review later or replay to the class. From the standpoint of increasingly strapped technology budgets, the software enables instructors to make the most of the computer lab equipment they already have.

To learn more about ComputED and the 2007 BESSIE Awards, visit For more information about NetSupport School, visit or call 1-888-665-0808.

About NetSupport

NetSupport, Inc. is a member of the NetSupport Group of Companies, headquartered in The UK. Specializing in the development of commercial software packages to manage and support Local and Wide Area Computer Networks, NetSupport products are utilized on more than 7 million desktops throughout 50 territories. Its award winning products include NetSupport Manager Remote Control and PC Management software, NetSupport DNA IT Asset Management and Help Desk software, NetSupport 24-7 on-demand remote support and chat, NetSupport Protect desktop security software and NetSupport School software, the leading interactive classroom instructional software solution. For more information and a free trial, visit or call 1-888-665-0808.


Gateway Earns Sole Number One Rank in Notebook Customer Satsifaction Study

IRVINE, Calif., May 16, 2007 ? Gateway, Inc. today announced that it has earned the sole number one ranking in Technology Business Research´s (TBR) Corporate IT Buying Behavior and Customer Satisfaction Study for Corporate Notebooks in the first quarter of 2007.

After sharing the number one position in the notebook category in the fourth quarter of 2006, Gateway now holds the leading rank alone and retains this position primarily based on its superior North American-based customer service. Of all PC industry players, Gateway´s performance ratings have improved the most significantly, including gains in delivery time and telephone support.

According to TBR, Gateway maintained its competitive strength in parts availability whereas certain large competitors´ satisfaction positions for parts availability declined abruptly and precipitously. In addition, Gateway´s ranking in ease of doing business surpassed the industry average for the first quarter. Gateway has been singled out for its competitive strength in this area for the past three reporting periods.

"Customer satisfaction and the quality of customer care is an important differentiator for Gateway," said Ed Coleman, Gateway chief executive officer. "The investments we´ve made in customer satisfaction are paying off. We´re especially pleased that the quality of the overall customer experience with Gateway has received this important recognition from TBR."

"Competitive strengths point to Gateway as the only sustainable number one player," said Julie Perron, Technology Business Research manager of primary research. "Gateway remains at the top of its game and has established a unique reputation in the marketplace for its customer service. Its corporate customers continue to express some of the highest expectations in the industry, making its achievements all the more impressive."

TBR´s study also noted Gateway´s efforts in design innovation, including a new convertible notebook PC that offers tablet computing with digital pen and touch screen capabilities in a small form factor. It´s one of the thinnest and lightest convertibles available with an integrated optical disk drive.

About Gateway

Since its founding in 1985, Irvine, Calif.-based Gateway (NYSE: GTW) has been a technology pioneer, offering award-winning PCs, servers and related products to consumers, businesses, government agencies and schools. Gateway is the third largest PC company in the U.S. and among the top ten worldwide. The company´s value-based eMachines brand is sold exclusively by leading retailers worldwide, while the premium Gateway line is available at major retailers, over the web and phone, and through its direct and indirect sales force. See for more information.