Key OCPS vendors

Angel Learning

Apple Inc.


Everyday Wireless

Hewlett-Packard Co.


Microsoft Corp.

Oracle Corp.

Palm Inc.

Pearson Education

The Princeton Review

Riverside Publishing


Software Answers Inc.

Teachscape Inc.

Tech4Learning Inc.

Trapeze Software

Wireless Generation


Ed-tech groups issue urgent call to action

Three leading educational technology advocacy groups have banded together to release a position paper that makes an urgent case for why–and how–school leaders should integrate technology into instruction.

“How will we create the schools America needs to remain competitive? For more than a generation, the nation has engaged in a monumental effort to improve student achievement. We’ve made progress, but we’re not even close to where we need to be,” according to the paper, titled “Maximizing the Impact: Why Technology Must Play a Pivotal Role in 21st Century Education.”

“It’s time to focus on what students need to learn–and on how to create a 21st-century education system that delivers results. In a digital world, no organization can achieve results without incorporating technology into every aspect of its everyday practices. It’s time for schools to maximize the impact of technology as well.”

Released Nov. 5, the paper is a joint project of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21).

“Most people assume that schools already are using technology in the same way that leading businesses and organizations are using it as an indispensable, integral tool for every critical function,” said Mary Ann Wolf, SETDA’s executive director. “This is simply not the case. Our educational system has a long way to go before the potential of technology to improve teacher quality, increase rigor, and maximize efficiencies is realized.”

Profound changes in the world’s economy “make it imperative for the nation to be much more strategic, aggressive, and effective in preparing students to succeed,” the paper says. “The rest of the world is catching up in terms of innovation, economic competitiveness, and educational achievement.”

Schools can prepare their students to succeed in this new 21st-century environment, the paper says–but this will require “broad and intensive use of technology.”

Two major obstacles stand in the way, according to the report: The use of technology in education today is too narrowly conceived, and the assumption that schools already are using technology widely is unfounded.

“Despite federal, state, and local investment in technology and internet connectivity, most schools still use technology sparingly, rather than as a critical component of all educational operations,” the report says.

“Right now, 100 million Americans have broadband access, 219 million Americans use cell phones, and the personal computer penetration rate is 73 percent. To a wireless nation that relies on technology for ordinary tasks and extraordinary achievements, it is shocking and inconceivable–but true–that technology is marginalized in the complex and vital affairs of education.”

To make its point, the paper cites statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce that rank education dead last in technology use among 55 industry sectors.

To address these concerns, the paper outlines a shared vision of what a 21st-century education system should look like. It also presents a call to action for educators, urging them to integrate technology as a “fundamental building block” in three broad areas: (1) to develop proficiency in 21st-century skills, (2) to support innovative teaching and learning, and (3) to create robust educational support systems.

The groups’ shared vision of 21st-century education involves teaching core skills such as reading, math, science, and world languages–but also “21st-century themes” such as global awareness; financial, economic, business, and entrepreneurial literacy; and civic literacy. It also involves teaching skills such as creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and communication, as well as information and media literacy, self-direction, and leadership and responsibility.

The paper also offers “best practices,” or examples of how states and school systems are using technology to address these various needs.

For instance, as part of the Maine Distance Learning Project, high school journalism students worked with students in Alabama to create a news-magazine television show that highlighted the features of each of their regions. And at the Consolidated High School District 230 in Orland Park, Ill., teachers are using instant messaging for optional after-school study, such as lab group work and exam preparation. Teachers report that even students who are reluctant to participate in classroom discussions are “active chatters” in these evening sessions, which they can access from the comfort of their homes.

The paper ends with a call to action among various groups of stakeholders. State and local education agencies are urged to emphasize proficiency in 21st-century skills within state standards, for example, and business and community leaders are urged to support the vision of schools as networked learning environments. All groups are urged to advocate for ongoing professional development to support 21st-century teaching and improve teacher quality.

“We cannot prepare students with the skills they need without making comprehensive use of technology throughout every aspect of education, just as other industry sectors have been doing for years,” it concludes. “… [T]here is no time to lose.”


Link to the report

State Educational Technology Directors Association

International Society for Technology in Education

Partnership for 21st Century Skills


Joe Smith, His Company

Link Here

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Self-assessment tool measures schools’ safety readiness

School leaders who want to see how their schools’ safety plans comparewith a national average can take a short online survey using CDW-G’s”School Safety Index Self-Assessment Tool,” a new feature thataccompanies the firm’s School Safety Index, which it initiallypublished in June. This newest tool rates schools and districtsaccording to 10 safety strengths and four weaknesses. Cyber andphysical security strengths include data monitoring, userauthentication, building access, and communication with localauthorities; weaknesses include IT and physical breaches or barriers.”We want the index to spark discussion in the community and encourageeveryone–students, parents, and educators–to play an active role instrengthening the safety and security of our schools,” said Bob Kirby,senior director of K-12 education for CDW-G. One key element thatdistricts should look for when evaluating their cyber and physicalsafety plans is whether these plans take a multi-layered approach tosecurity, Kirby said. “You don’t want to rely too much on one toolbecause that’s the easiest way for people to get around it,” he said.


Does U.S. lag in internet speed?

Is the United States stuck in the internet’s slow lane? It’s a question lawmakers are beginning to ask–and the answer could have significant implications for education: Most schools have high-speed networks and fast internet connections, but their ability to stream video or large files to students’ homes, for example, depends on the connection speeds of those households.

Examples abound of countries that have faster and cheaper broadband connections than the U.S., and more of their populations connected to them. What’s less clear is how badly the country that gave birth to the internet is doing, and whether the government needs to step in and do something about it.

The Bush administration has tried to foster broadband adoption with a hands-off approach. If that is seen as a failure by the next administration, the policy might change.

In a move to get a clearer picture of where the U.S. stands, the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Oct. 30 approved legislation that would develop an annual inventory of existing broadband services–including the types, advertised speeds, and actual number of subscribers–available to households and businesses across the nation.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., is intended to provide policy makers with improved data so they can better use grants and subsidies to target areas lacking high-speed internet access. Markey said in a statement last week that promoting broadband internet access would help spur job growth, access to health care, and education and would promote innovation, among other benefits.

The inventory wouldn’t cover other countries, but a cursory look shows the U.S. lagging behind at least some of them. In South Korea, for instance, the average apartment can get an internet connection that is 15 times faster than a typical U.S. connection. In Paris, a “triple play” of TV, phone, and broadband service costs less than half of what it does in the U.S.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)–a 30-member club of nations—compiles the most often cited international comparison. It puts the U.S. at 15th place for broadband lines per person in 2006, down from No. 4 in 2001.

The OECD numbers have been vigorously attacked by anti-regulation think tanks for making the U.S. look exceedingly bad. They point out that the OECD is not very open about how it compiles the data. It doesn’t count people who have access to the internet at work, for example, or students who have access in their dorms.

“We would never base other kinds of policy on [those] kind of data,” said Scott Wallsten, director of communications policy studies at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a think tank that favors deregulation over government intervention.

But the OECD numbers are in line with other international measures. Figures from the British research firm Point-Topic Ltd. put the U.S., with 55 percent of its households connected, in 17th place for adoption rates at the end of June (excluding some very small countries and territories like Macau and Hong Kong).

“We’re now in the middle of the pack of developed countries,” said Dave Burstein, telecommunications gadfly and the editor of the DSL Prime newsletter, during a sometimes tense debate at the Columbia Business School’s Institute for Tele-Information.

Burstein says the U.S. is lagging because of low levels of investment by the big telecommunications companies and as a result of regulatory failure.

Several of the European countries that are doing well have forced telephone companies to rent their lines to internet service providers for low fees. The ISPs use these lines to run broadband Digital Subscriber Lines, or DSL, often at speeds much higher than those available in the U.S.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) went down this regulatory road a few years ago, but legal challenges from the phone companies forced it to back away.

In 2004, President Bush called for nationwide broadband access by 2007, to be nurtured by an absence of taxation and little regulation. The U.S. is very close to Bush’s goal, thanks to the availability of satellite broadband internet access across the lower 48 states.

But the internet by satellite is expensive and slow in relation to other broadband options. Nearly everyone might have access to the internet, but that doesn’t mean they’re plugging in.

Part of the problem might be that people don’t see fast internet access as an essential part of modern life, and they might need more of a push to get on. The U.S. does have wider income disparities than many of the countries that are outdoing it in broadband access, and people living in poverty often have other priorities for their money.

Dan Correa, a research analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, believes the U.S. needs a more “proactive” broadband policy. He compares the lack of government involvement in the field with the situation in other utilities, which are mostly heavily regulated.

“In the 1930s, we recognized that electricity was essential. We’re not quite at that level in broadband,” Correa said.

At least one current FCC commissioner, Michael J. Copps, might have greater influence if a Democratic president were elected in 2009. Current Commissioner Copps, a Democrat who could be tapped as FCC chairman under a new administration, has said broadband availability could be encouraged with tax incentives and loans to rural utilities.

By 2009, the United States isn’t likely to catch up to South Korea or even Canada (where 65 percent of households already are connected to broadband, according to Point-Topic), because broadband adoption is slowing down after an initial growth spurt.

In the last few weeks, the three largest internet service providers in the U.S. reported adding 1.2 million subscribers in the third quarter, down from 1.54 million in the same quarter last year, according to a tally by UBS analyst John Hodulik.

But the U.S. does have a few aces up its sleeve. Apart from satellite broadband, it has widespread cable networks, which provide an alternative to DSL. Cable has some technical advantages over phone lines, and a new cable modem technology called Docsis 3.0 could allow U.S. internet speeds to leapfrog those in countries dominated by DSL in a few years.

On the phone side, the country’s second largest telecommunications company, Verizon Communications Inc., is spending $23 billion to connect homes directly with super-fast fiber optics.

“Twenty percent of the U.S. is getting a decent network,” Burstein acknowledges. The new network can match or outdo the 100 megabits-per-second internet service widely available in Japan and Korea, but Verizon isn’t yet selling service at that speed.

One move Congress has made to encourage the spread of broadband internet access in U.S. homes has been to renew the moratorium on internet-access taxes. The U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 30 unanimously approved a seven-year extension of this moratorium, and the Senate passed similar legislation last week. President Bush signed the bills into law Oct. 31.

For consumers, the legislation largely maintains the status quo: No internet-access taxes except in the nine states that were grandfathered in when the ban was first put in place in 1998. The legislation applies only to internet-access taxes, not to sales taxes for online purchases.

While the move will help keep the cost of internet access down so more families can afford connectivity in their homes, it also will deprive state and local governments of another revenue source that could be spent on education.


Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

Progress and Freedom Foundation

Columbia Institute for Tele-Information

Federal Communications Commission


eSN TechWatch: November 2007

Flash Video

Video’s role in transforming instruction, and the push to teach 21st-century skills. Plus, a look back at the best of TechWatch from the past year.


Low-cost laptop deals heat up

The race to supply low-cost laptop computers to students in developing nations has heated up: Within hours of the news that Uruguay had become the first nation to buy XO laptops from former MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organization, Intel Corp. countered by unveiling deals with two African nations to purchase its Classmate PCs.

The dueling announcements underscore how competitive the global market has become for makers of educational technology.

Uruguay’s government has placed the first official order for OLPC’s so-called “$100 laptop,” which now costs nearly $200, according to several news reports. The South American country has ordered 100,000 XO computers for schoolchildren ages six to 12. Uruguay might purchase an additional 300,000 of the machines to provide one for every child in the country by 2009.

The sale gives a boost to OLPC, which has acknowledged having trouble getting orders.

“I have, to some degree, underestimated the difference between shaking the hand of a head of state and having a check written,” Negroponte, OLPC’s founder, recently told the New York Times. However, he said he was “delighted” with the first deal.

“We commend Uruguay for being the first country to take concrete actions to provide laptops to all its children and teachers and look forward to other countries following this example,” he said.

Not to be outdone, Intel and Microsoft announced that they are supplying Libya’s government with 150,000 Classmate PCs, Reuters reports. Like the XO machines, Classmate PCs are rugged laptop computers that cost about $200 to build and are designed to meet the needs of children in developing countries.

According to Intel spokeswoman Agnes Kwan, Libya’s education ministry ordered the machines in August, and shipments began in September. “So far it’s going well. We’re just a month into the deployment,” Kwan told Reuters.

Libya’s domestic press reported the sale of the Classmate PC devices in August, she said, but Intel and Microsoft had yet to discuss it outside of that country–until now.

Kwan also said that Intel had signed up Nigeria as a Classmate PC customer, though she said she did not know how many machines the government would order, or whether they would run on Windows or the rival Linux operating system. Classmate PCs are capable of running both types of software–an advantage that gives the Intel-made devices a leg up on OLPC’s machines.

The XO uses a homegrown, open-source operating system that avoids windows, folders, and other familiar formats in favor of a new approach designed to be intuitive to children.

Microsoft has been working to get Windows to run on XOs. But it doesn’t appear that will be ready soon, said Will Poole, who heads Microsoft’s emerging-markets group. That’s because it’s hard to tweak Windows so it can interact with the nonstandard things that make the XO innovative, such as its display and power-saving technologies.

Classmate PCs are just part of Intel’s education business in Nigeria. The Associated Press reported Oct. 31 that Intel has launched a “digital inclusion project” in Nigeria that aims to train 150,000 teachers, provide computers to schools, and pilot an electronic means for hospitals to care for children in remote areas.

Intel Chairman Craig Barrett said the company is certain that channeling more funds to education and health projects in Africa–the world’s poorest continent–will yield good business dividends in the long term. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with more than 140 million people.

“Nigeria is a major emerging market, and it cannot be ignored,” Barrett told AP, adding that the world’s next 1 billion internet users will come from emerging markets.

“There is only a 2 percent internet penetration in Africa, leaving a huge gap,” he said. “This is not only a commercial opportunity but also poses a challenge and a compelling need for companies like ours to meaningfully invest here and grow the market.”

Intel and OLPC appear to be working together, even as their respective machines compete for business in developing nations. In August, Intel announced that it would join OLPC’s board and contribute both money and technical expertise to the project.

Intel also has teamed with Taiwanese computer maker Asustek to unveil another low-cost educational laptop, the $299 Asus Eee PC, earlier this year.

Though these low-cost computing projects target children in developing countries, their impact is being felt in the United States, too.

In September, OLPC announced that it would sell its XO computers for a brief period in the United States for $400 apiece, with the profits going to subsidize a machine in a developing nation.

U.S. schools also are likely to feel a ripple effect as manufacturers compete to reduce power consumption and trim costs to meet emerging ed-tech markets around the world.


One Laptop Per Child

Intel Education

Asus Eee PC