SURVEY REVEALS PARENTAL NOTIFICATION SYSTEMS INCREASE PARENT INVOLVEMENT; SAVE SCHOOLS TIME AND MONEY

ST. LOUIS, MO., Aug. 6, 2009 – In an age where instant communication is the norm, the ability to immediately alert staff and parents about emergency situations on school campuses has become increasingly common. Yet, a survey conducted recently by SchoolReach, one of the fastest-growing parent notification services used by public, private and parochial schools in the United States, shows that many schools and districts are finding a much greater need for helpful, non-emergency communication between school and home.  This need has led a growing number of districts to purchase mass notification systems, with an increased level of communications in mind. 

“Many districts over the past five years have installed emergency notification systems for those rare disaster situations,” said Paul Langhorst, vice president of operations at GroupCast, SchoolReach’s parent company.  “But more and more administrators are finding that parents appreciate being notified and reminded of regular day-to-day events such as parent teacher conferences or when important paperwork has been sent home with their children.  In our discussions with school administrators, it’s solutions like ours that are making the difference in getting parents more involved in their children’s education.” 

Current research validates the belief that increased parental involvement leads to increased student success.  A study by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory confirmed: students with involved parents are more likely to attend school regularly, earn higher grades, and have better social skills.  The report also showed that students with informed and involved parents are more likely to continue on to post-secondary education.

“Most vendors of mass notification systems do not address the greater need districts face in connecting parents and schools regarding day-to-day activities.  Instead, they focus on crisis communications exclusively, which thankfully are rarely, if ever, needed,” said Langhorst.   

For the SchoolReach survey, administrators at both public and Parochial schools were asked about ‘most often’ uses of the parental notification system; how does the use of the SchoolReach make life easier; and how does the district or school evaluate the ongoing success of their notification system as a communications solution.  Their responses supported the broader theme of regular communication enhances parental involvement.

“Parents have such busy lives that they forget about school meetings,” said Anne Graham from St. John’s School in Howell, Michigan.  “SchoolReach helps me stay in touch with parents and draw greater attendance at school meeting and activities.  In fact, the last two meetings that I used the SchoolReach system to send recorded reminders, I had 100 percent attendance. It really helps me with my job in staying connected to parents, and it helps them stay engaged in their children’s program.”

“We knew SchoolReach was going to make a difference in our school-to-home communications efforts, but the results have really been great,” said Linda Abbott, federal coordinator, Booneville Public Schools in Booneville, Arkansas.  We see a stronger partnership, a collective sense of responsibility being forged with parents and our staff, and we believe the results will have a positive affect on student learning.”

The SchoolReach system is web-based, requiring no additional hardware or phone lines for schools to install.  It also offers customizable features, giving administrators the ability to automate absentee notices, make multi-language recordings, and launch phone-delivered parent polls and surveys.

Other survey respondents referenced the system’s ability to help save time and money.  Bynum ISD (Hill County, TX) began using the SchoolReach instant notification system in 2008.  Prior o SchoolReach, the district would send progress reports or report cards every three weeks to every student’s family at a cost of $700 per mailing.  Today the district sends reports home with students but uses the SchoolReach system to notify and remind parents to look for them.  The cost savings for this one use is over $6,000 a year. 

“In this economy school districts, like many corporations around the country, are being pressured to save money,” said Bynum Superintendent Brenda Speer.  “By thinking outside the box and about how we use our SchoolReach communications solution we were able to instantly save money and leverage a greater return on our investment.  This leaves us with additional financial resources to fund key educational programs, expand our offerings, or even purchase new technology.”

“It is difficulty to quantify the monetary savings, but it saves us time, which is money, and provides great "goodwill" which is a very valuable asset, as well,” Randy G. Rivers, superintendent, Bluestem USD 205 in Leon, Kansas.

 

ABOUT GROUPCAST AND SCHOOLREACH 

GroupCast is a St. Louis-based instant messaging notification service, delivering automated messages via three platforms: voice, email, and text messaging.  SchoolReach, a subsidiary of GroupCast, is the nation’s leading parent notification service among private schools, and the fastest-growing communications service used by public schools.  More information about GroupCast or SchoolReach can be found at www.groupcast.com and www.schoolreach.com or by calling 800-420-1479.

 

Media Contacts:


Leslie Eicher @ 314-965-1776 

Leslie@EicherCommunications.com

 

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Digital Directions International Hits Back to Back Home Runs

Carbondale, Colorado – August 10, 2009– In a year full of accolades, Digital Directions International (DDI), publisher of the award-winning HELP Math for ELL and Special Needs, in partnership with the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, has been awarded a major, multi-year grant from the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). The grant, entitled The Math Learning Companion: An Individualized Intervention for Students with Math Learning Disabilities, is for the research and development of a ground-breaking mathematics intervention that will be designed to align a comprehensive curriculum directly with the natural development of math understanding for students with a range of cognitive disabilities, such as language processing, working memory, and visual/spatial abilities.

 
 “This new grant will fund exciting cutting-edge adaptive educational technology that will individualize math instruction to serve students with cognitive disabilities,” said Dr. Lindy Crawford, Associate Dean, UCCS College of Education. “The grant will allow for the development of the first comprehensive mathematics intervention designed specifically for students with learning disabilities at the middle school level. It will provide a seamless link between diagnostic analyses, an adaptive standards-aligned curriculum, and a comprehensive monitoring system.”
 
John Ramo, DDI’s Founder & CEO added, “The funding for this new program will enable DDI to continue our focus on cutting-edge technology solutions for the education market. The combination of creating an intervention that is data-driven and can be directly utilized in an RTI (Response to Intervention) context that also contains powerful Sheltered Instruction features will be of great interest to districts and schools across the country. This grant allows us to continue our innovative leadership in math learning.”
 
Within weeks of the grant award, DDI’s HELP Math for ELL and Special Needs program was also honored with the DOE’s highest rating for a technology program for the third consecutive year.
HELP Math was reviewed and “deemed to be of high quality” by the U.S. Department of Education’s Government Performance and Results (GPRA) Act. The independent review panel of qualified experts, chosen by the US DOE’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, gave HELP Maththe highest rating of all technology-based programs. The GPRA evaluation is an extremely rigorous one, making the third-year recognition an even greater accomplishment.
“We are thrilled that HELP Math has once again received the highest rating from the DOE’s Office of Innovation and Improvement.” said Barbara Freeman, DDI’s President and HELP Math’s program creator. “To receive this honor for three consecutive years is a significant accomplishment, as DOE uses a different review committee each year, comprised of technology and math specialists from across the US to insure an independent and thorough evaluation.”
HELP Math for ELL and Special Needs, winner of the 2009 SIIA CODiE award for the Best Educational Program for Students with Special Needs,was initially designed for English language learners (ELLs), but has since been proven to effectively help and engage all students with special needs. 
 
About the HELP Math Program
HELP (Help for English Language Proficiency) MATH for ELL and Special Needs is a web-based math intervention designed to address the needs of English Language and other struggling learners to reach proficiency. Developed according to Sheltered Instruction principles, HELP Math is effective for students in grades 3-8 who need to develop the academic language and concepts in the math content area. HELP Math is the only multimedia, internet delivered math program that embeds research-based principles found to be successful for ELL content area achievement. Visit http://helpprogram.net to learn more.
 
About DDI
Digital Directions International, Inc. is a socially-responsible, educational technology pioneer and publisher of digital educational content. DDI is focused on developing and co-distributing online supplemental and educational intervention software products in mathematics and science, especially for English Language Learners (ELL), Latino, and other students in need.
 
About the Institute for Education Sciences
The Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 established within the U.S. Department of Education, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The mission of IES is to provide rigorous evidence on which to ground education practice and policy. This is accomplished through the work of its four centers.
 
About the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement is responsible for implementing the Government Performance and Results (GPRA) Act, an extremely rigorous review of education products that have received federal grant dollars. The Office sets the standards and uses five categories to assess all products to be reviewed: Content, Technology, Design, Implementation, and Target Audience. The Independent Review Panel of qualified experts rates the product and provides evaluations for each metric.
HELP Math for ELL and Special Needs is distributed in the U.S. by Academic Business Advisors. Please contact Alan Stern at ABA for more information alan.stern@academicbiz.com, 516-429-1877.
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Remote-Learner Introduces Open Source Enterprise Learning Suite for Moodle


Fishersville, VA – July 22, 2009 – Remote-Learner.net, Inc. (www.remote-learner.net), an official Moodle partner service provider, today announced general availability of their Enterprise Learning Intelligence Suite (ELIS), integrating three best in class open source platforms to provide advanced learning management features for enterprise level organizations.

ELIS is built on a core of open source web applications, integrated with the Moodle LMS interface and single-sign-on (SSO) API. Remote-Learner’s curriculum management system provides users with the ability to create learning tracks and automatically assign them groups of users. Jaspersoft BI Server, the most widely used business intelligence software, provides managers and administrators with a business intelligence suite for tracking learning across the organization, as well as the ability to generate and share new reports on the fly. Remote-Learner partnered with open sources enterprise content management industry leader Alfresco to provide a content repository to support content development and reuse.

The combined ELIS system provides schools, businesses and governmental organizations with enterprise level functionality previously unavailable with Moodle alone, at a distinct cost savings. ELIS is fully supported by Remote-Learner through an annual subscription service.

“We created ELIS in response to customer demand. Many organizations love Moodle, but needed additional functionality to track learners across multiple courses and report out to the rest of the organization.” said Remote-Learner CEO Bryan Williams. “The result is a system which reduces costly manual tracking and data entry, while providing reduced content management costs.”

“Alfresco’s partnership with Remote-Learner utilizes the innovation of open source to deliver enterprise solutions for eLearning organizations at a much lower cost. Alfresco Enterprise functionality compliments Moodle and makes content authoring easier by supporting content conversion, version tracking and collaborative authoring,” said John Newton, Chairman and CTO, Alfresco Software.
 

By building on an open source platform, Remote-Learner is able to offer its clients enterprise level features for a fraction of the cost of traditional closed-source commercial systems. “Building on these industry leading open source products, we were able to focus on integration and the learning experience, not re-inventing the wheel. I believe ELIS can compete with any other learning content management system (LCMS) on the market, and deliver superior value for the money.” said project lead and Chief Operating Officer, Jason Cole, Ph.D.

 

About Remote-Learner

Remote-Learner has been providing educational technologies services since 1982 to its business, educational and governmental clients. Today, these services include support for best-of-breed open source programs. Remote-Learner is an official Moodle partner, JasperSoft partner and Alfresco partner The company offers SaaS hosting services, IT support contracts, core custom programming, workforce development training, instructional design and strategic consulting services for organizations planning online learning programs.

Remote-Learner (
http://remote-learner.net) maintains corporate offices in Fishersville VA, Overland Park KS and Waterloo Ontario Canada and serves clients throughout the US, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. For further information about ELIS contact steam@remote-learner.net.

 

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In a digital future, textbooks are history

Textbooks have not gone the way of the scroll yet, but many educators say it won’t be long before they are replaced by digital versions, reports the New York Times — or supplanted altogether by lessons assembled from the wealth of free courseware, educational games, videos, and projects on the web. "Kids are wired differently these days," said Sheryl R. Abshire, chief technology officer for the Calcasieu Parish school system in Lake Charles, La. "They’re digitally nimble. They multitask, transpose, and extrapolate. They don’t engage with textbooks that are finite, linear, and rote." In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this summer announced an initiative that would replace some high school science and math texts with free, open digital versions. With California in dire straits, the governor hopes free textbooks could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The initiative, the first such statewide effort, has attracted widespread attention, because California, together with Texas, dominates the nation’s textbook market. And many superintendents are enthusiastic. "In five years, I think the majority of students will be using digital textbooks," said William M. Habermehl, superintendent of the 500,000-student Orange County, Calif., schools…

Click here for the full story

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Teachers tread with caution on Facebook

With technology evolving as fast as a teen’s thumbs can move over a cell phone, teachers are seeking to strike a balance on what’s considered appropriate contact in the online world, reports the Tennessean. Teacher Laura Joy Perales counts about 100 students among her friends on Facebook. An English instructor at the Nashville School of the Arts, she thinks hard before posting on the popular social-networking site and closely monitors comments from everyone else. "It’s beneficial," Perales said. "Students can access the day’s class if they miss it. They don’t have to fall behind. I’ll be able to post on Facebook: ‘You have a paper due tomorrow.’ … But you need to be very careful, and you should only be putting stuff online that you are comfortable with." Local school districts are adopting a mixture of written policies and verbal warnings to deal with teaching in the Information Age, when many of their students have their own online profiles and can find teachers’, too. And teachers themselves are adopting a broad stance, from refusing to "friend" students to establishing their own interactive web sites exclusively for student use. But some point to the potential dangers of mixing a personal site with student business…

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Sacramento-area schools have big plans for federal ed-tech funds

ed_mn_logoBLocal school district officials have many ideas for spending their share of the $71.6 million in federal ed-tech stimulus funds that will be distributed by the state in the coming months, reports the Sacramento Bee. The money will come from the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology Program, the recipient of $650 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. The Folsom Cordova Unified School District would like to update its computer labs and add online learning options. Natomas Unified would purchase equipment and train its teachers to use technology. Elk Grove Unified would buy computers, video projectors, digital video camcorders, and equipment for producing podcasts. The Placer Union High School District would focus on online learning, staff development, and updating its aging computer system. State officials said the funds will be distributed in two parts after 5 percent is taken out for state administrative costs. The first half will be divided among school districts according to their Title 1A funding. The second portion will be awarded through competitive grants. Applications are expected to be posted by the end of the month, and districts could see grant checks in November.

Click here for the full story

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Feds revise swine flu guidance

In a departure from previous guidance on the issue, the U.S. government on Aug. 7 said schools should close this fall only if large numbers of students have swine flu, and schools could allow their sick students to return 24 hours after a fever is gone.

The decision whether to close always rests with local school officials, but educators have been looking to the federal government for advice about the new flu strain that has caused a global epidemic.

The advice on sick kids returning is a change from previous recommendations that people with swine flu should stay home for at least a week.

As the virus spread to students last spring, more than 700 schools in 25 states temporarily closed their doors. The new flu is expected to hit schools again this fall. But the Obama administration is hoping to minimize school closings–and the disruptions they cause for families.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano offered the new advice on school closings, while the guidance on students returning came from Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Unlike regular seasonal flu, this virus has not retreated during the hot and humid summer months and so far has infected more than 1 million Americans, officials say.

“We hope no schools have to close, but realistically, some schools will close this fall,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said this week during a forum with administration officials that was broadcast online.

“I’m dealing first and foremost as a parent,” Duncan said Aug. 7 on a nationally broadcast news show. “I want to keep my children safe and keep them learning.” He said officials are asking parents to “use common sense” and encourage their children to vigorously wash their hands several times a day and take other safety precautions.

“We want to provide as [many] facts as we can” to local officials, he said. “Basically, this will be a tiered response. If there’s a handful of children at a school who might be sick, we want the parents to keep them home. If the numbers escalate dramatically, then we might have to close the schools.”

Duncan said officials anticipate the vaccine will be available by mid-October and that they want schools to be principal sites for getting the shots.

Students got an unexpected vacation last spring, but many parents scrambled to find child care.

School officials had been acting on advice from the CDC, which at first said schools should shut down for about two weeks if there were suspected cases of swine flu.

Then the CDC changed course, saying schools did not need to close because the virus was milder than feared. Instead, parents were told to keep sick kids home for at least a week.

Duncan said at a swine flu summit last month that closing school should be “a last resort, not a first resort.”

He said earlier this week that school districts should use common sense. “If you have one child sick, that’s one thing. If you have a whole host of children getting sick, that’s another,” Duncan said.

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Contest lets students try to ‘change the world’

A handheld diagnostic medical lab created by two Stanford University graduate students took home the top prize in the first annual Presidents’ "Change the World" Competition from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) last month–and its designers hope their NanoLab will revolutionize patient health care in poor countries worldwide.

With submissions from more than 200 undergraduate and graduate students around the globe, the competition called on students to develop unique solutions to real-world problems using engineering, science, computing, and leadership skills to benefit their community or humanity.

Stanford students Drew Hall, who is working on his doctorate in electrical engineering, and Richard Gaster, who is in the school’s M.D./Ph.D. program and working on his doctorate in bioengineering, designed the NanoLab to address the need for access to medical diagnostic laboratories and well-trained technicians in third-world countries.

IEEE President John Vig said he came up with the idea for the competition during a trip to India last year.

"I noticed how enthusiastic students were about doing humanitarian projects," he said, recalling one student who was excited about a computer program he designed that helped medical professionals diagnose children with autism. "His program is now being used throughout India. That gave me that idea that we ought to do something to try to encourage students to do humanitarian projects."

After spending time discussing solutions to different problems he and his peers saw, Hall said, the competition gave them an opportunity to turn their ideas into practice.

"Our regular research here at Stanford focuses on benchtop applications of technology. … One thing we thought would be kind of neat is if we could miniaturize everything and make a truly point-of-care and portable device," he said.

Gaster said much of the typical medical equipment is large. Although it is useful for research, the equipment is not necessarily applicable to the health care system.

"Especially with the state of the health care system as it is, we wanted to develop [something] more sustainable–cheaper, easier to use–so that it can actually be deployed and used either here in the U.S. or in the developing world," Gaster said.

Hall and Gaster said their ultimate goal is to get the NanoLab into the hands of individual patients, so they don’t necessarily have to go the emergency room or a physician to get a simple diagnosis. The platform will be reusable, with a number of different test sticks available that could be used to diagnose different illnesses. They said they are using part of their $10,000 prize to reinvest in and continue researching the NanoLab.

To use the NanoLab, the patient places a sample–such as saliva or blood–into the reaction well, then adds a few drops of a solution containing magnetic nanoparticles. After that, the patient adds a detection antibody. Fifteen minutes later, the NanoLab test module will indicate a protein’s concentration level by means of a colored light. If the light is off, the protein is undetectable. A green light indicates low protein concentration; an orange light indicates medium protein concentration; and a red light indicates high protein concentration.

Vig said he was impressed with the range of solutions that students entered into the competition.

"For example, there was a human-powered grain crusher. In the least developed countries–in the poorest countries in the world–it’s usually women who crush grains and make flour out of grains using very primitive tools. So these students decided to use a modified bicycle, … and just the energy from the person riding the bicycle was doing the grain crushing, rather than women sitting on the ground using the primitive tools," he said.

Entries for next year’s competition will be accepted beginning in September, though Vig acknowledged the judging process might have to be altered.

"It was difficult to complete the judging within the time frame that we allowed for ourselves, because we had judges all over the world and we want to make sure that everyone is judged fairly," he said.

"And it’s really difficult, because if you look at the topics … how do you compare a grain crusher to a handheld medical diagnostic laboratory? It’s very subjective, but that’s the way it is."

Second place, and $5,000, went to students from B.V. Bhoomaraddi College of Engineering and Technology in India. The students designed electronic aids for physically and mentally handicapped children. The human-powered grain crusher, designed by students from Rowan University in New Jersey, took third place and a $2,500 prize.

Links:

IEEE Presidents’ "Change the World" Competition 2009 winners

Presidents’ "Change the World" Competition 2010

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2009 Asics Netball Shoes

The new Asics 2009/2010 season netball shoe range is available in stores now and can be ordered online from specialist netball equipment retailers.

The new top of the range model is the Netburner Professional 5 netball shoe which can be found at discounted prices.

The GEL-NETBURNER PRO 5 shoe heralds Asics’ new generation of technical netball footwear. It has been packed with innovative technologies which combine to improve performance, increase comfort and help prevent injury. The PRO 5 netball shoe is designed to suit players who want the look and feel of a running shoe but with all the technical advantages of a specialist netball shoe.

Asics are the Official Footwear Suppliers for England Netball.

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