North Carolina Schools encouraged to apply for ARRA funding

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) distributed ARRA funds to states to save and create jobs while advancing reforms and improvements that will create long-lasting results for K-12 students.
ARRA will provide funding to North Carolina schools through existing federal formula and competitive grant programs including Title I, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance program. Schools with programs that meet these criteria are encouraged to apply.

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$5,000 for teachers who provide science teaching excellence

The Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence (AASTE) is an annual awards program that recognizes extraordinary contributions by educators across the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada who are elevating the level of science literacy through creativity in the classroom and motivation of students. An independent panel of judges selects the winners based on the following criteria: creativity and effectiveness of teaching methods; the plan for the use of grant money to improve science education resources in their schools; and an innovative science lesson plan showcasing innovative methods in the classroom.

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Teachers using cell phones for class lessons

Ariana Leonard’s Spanish class at Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel, Fla., is one of a growing number around the country that are abandoning traditional policies of cell-phone prohibition and incorporating the devices into class lessons, reports the Associated Press. Her students divide into groups, and Leonard sends them text messages in Spanish: Find something green. Go to the cafeteria. Take a picture with the school secretary. In this way, Spanish vocabulary becomes a digital scavenger hunt. “I can use my cell phone for all these things, why can’t I use it for learning purposes?'” Leonard said. Today’s phones are the equivalent of small computers; meanwhile, most school districts can’t afford a computer for every student. “It really is taking advantage of the love affair that kids have with technology today,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. “The kids are much more motivated to use their cell phone in an educational manner.” Even districts with tough anti-use policies acknowledge they’ll need to change eventually. “We can’t get away from it,” said Bill Husfelt, superintendent of Bay County District Schools, a Florida Panhandle district of 27,000 students where cell phones aren’t allowed in school, period. “But we’ve got to do a lot more work in trying to figure out how to stop the bad things from happening.”

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Taiwan plans to roll out e-Readers in schools

Taiwan’s Ministry of Education plans to offer e-readers to school kids on the island next year as part of its efforts to digitize schools and promote reading, PC World reports. The e-readers are part of a five-year budget earmarked for information technology in classrooms, valued at $1.55 billion in U.S. dollars. Currently, the ministry is reviewing designs for e-readers and doesn’t yet know how many it will purchase for next year, a representative said. This year, the ministry has focused on putting digital chalkboards in math, science, and language classrooms in Taiwan schools. The HaBoard interactive whiteboard has an 82-inch touch screen so teachers can write on them, make changes to images on the screen, or call up further information, said Ivan Huang, a representative of HaBook Information Technology, the maker of the device. The classrooms using the HaBoard also provide touch-screen monitors to groups of kids in each class, usually one screen for every five or six kids. The purpose of the monitors is to make the class more interactive, so kids can look up additional information or answer questions about the subject the teacher is currently reviewing…

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Avg. school district IT director makes $87,898

Despite the slumping economy, technology personnel working in public school district central-office positions saw a 2.1-percent increase in average salary over the past year, with district-level technology directors earning $87,898 on average, according to the latest National Survey of Salaries and Wages in Public Schools. But in many districts, technology directors are still not viewed as on par with instructional services directors–and their average salary reflects this perception.

The annual salary survey collects data on 23 professional and 10 support positions, which are selected to represent the full scope of public school employment.

School systems use salary and wage data in many ways, including putting salary increases in a national or regional context when giving information to stakeholders; assessing a level of competitiveness in staff recruiting; reviewing salary schedules for building administrators and teachers relative to those used by other school systems; or analyzing year-to-year and long-term salary increases in comparison with other trends or those in other school systems.

The data were collected from 862 public school systems for the 2008-09 school year. Also included in this year’s survey is year-to-year, five-year, and 10-year information on trends in public school salaries and wages, with comparisons to the Consumer Price Indexes for each of those periods. Responding districts provided salary data on more than 1.5 million employees.

Central-office positions in the survey include superintendents, deputy or associate superintendents, assistant superintendents, staff directors, public relations personnel, finance and business managers, instructional program managers, technology developers and coordinators, and subject-area supervisors.

The survey also includes data on the average salaries of principals and assistant principals; classroom teachers; auxiliary professionals such as counselors, librarians, and school nurses; and support personnel, including teacher aides, building custodians, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers.

District-level technology directors earn an average salary of $87,898, the report says–although it notes that their salary levels seem to be closely linked with their school district’s enrollment, with a $48,925 difference between the average salaries paid in large and very small districts ($114,778 versus $65,853, respectively). Geographically, the highest average salaries for technology positions appear in the country’s Mideast ($93,051) and far West ($100,655) regions.

Average superintendent salaries showed a 4.9-percent increase in the last year, from $148,387 to $155,634. The average salary paid to superintendents in districts enrolling 25,000 or more pupils is $225,222, while in districts enrolling 300 to 2,499 pupils, the average salary is $114,509. As with tech directors, superintendents in the Mideast and the far West have the highest average salaries.

Instructional services personnel earned an average salary of $102,322–a 2.6-percent increase over an average of $99,748 in 2007-08. And among central-office positions, the report notes that much importance is placed on this position, particularly in districts with enrollments of less than 10,000 students–in those districts, the director of instructional services is paid more than other directors, managers, and coordinators.

Elementary school principals earn $88,062 on average, middle school principals earn an average of $93,478, and high school principals average $99,365. Not surprisingly, principals and assistant principals in districts with high per-pupil expenditure have higher average salaries than their counterparts in districts with lower per-pupil expenditures.

Teachers earned an average salary of $52,900 in 2008-09, a 3.1-percent increase over 2007-08’s average salary of $51,329. Teacher salaries also are closely related with a district’s per-pupil expenditure level: The average teacher salary in high per-pupil expenditure districts is $56,538, compared with an average of $48,618 in low per-pupil expenditure districts.

Salary tables in the report are analyzed according to four categories: pupil enrollment, per-pupil expenditure levels, geographic regions, and community types, such as suburban or rural.

When adjusted to 2008 dollars, the 1998-99 average salary paid to teachers was $54,625, meaning the average teacher salary has declined by $1,725 in real dollars. The report notes that this decline could be owing in part to teachers at the high end of the salary range having retired, bringing in newer teachers at the bottom of the salary range to replace them.

The data indicate that over the past decade, salaries for central-office administrators increased at a higher rate (39.3 percent) than salary increases for other professional and support staff, including secretarial/clerical personnel (37.4 percent), building-level administrators (30.6 percent), teachers (27.9 percent), and auxiliary professionals (27.4 percent).

Public school employees’ average salaries outpaced inflation by less than 1 percent from the 1998-99 school year to the 2008-09 school year.
 
Many factors can influence staff compensation, the report notes, such as the relative experience of staff members and whether a district is trying to increase salaries to attract and retain highly qualified personnel.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2008-09 job outlook says that job opportunities for teachers over the next 10 years will vary from good to excellent. The degree depends on location, grade level, and subject, but most job openings will result from the need to replace the large number of "baby boomer" educators expected to retire in the next few years. New teachers leaving the profession after only a few years also will create job openings, the report says.

Educational Research Service (ERS) prepared the report, which was distributed by the Association of School Business Officials International.

Link:

National Survey of Salaries and Wages in Public Schools

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Survey shows untapped potential for campus IT

More than 90 percent of college students use social-networking services such as Facebook and Twitter, but only 28 percent say they have used these tools in a course during the last semester, according to a survey that suggests there is much untapped potential for schools to leverage the technologies that students use every day to help with learning.

The 2009 "Survey of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology," from the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR), included a web-based survey of freshmen and seniors at 103 four-year colleges and universities and 12 two-year schools, as well as focus groups with 62 students from four institutions.

Since 2004, the annual survey has shed light on how technology affects the college experience for students.

This year’s survey shows that student ownership of laptops is twice that of desktop computers (88 percent to 44 percent, with several students owning both). What’s more, 51 percent of students said they now own an internet-capable handheld device, such as a smart phone, and another 12 percent said they plan to buy one in the next 12 months.

"Like the clothes in their suitcases, the technologies students bring to campus change every year," the report said. "It’s hard to believe, but when the college seniors we surveyed for this year’s study began their education four years ago, netbooks, iPhones, and the Nintendo Wii has yet to hit the market."

Still, having an internet-capable handheld device doesn’t mean this functionality is used; more than a third (35 percent) of students who own such a phone said they never use this feature.

Despite the slumping economy, students are entering school with newer equipment, the study says. Nearly eight out of 10 freshmen owned a laptop that was one year old or less, and two-thirds of all students surveyed reported owning a machine two years old or less.

That’s good news for campus IT staff who are concerned about supporting older equipment, the report said–although 18 percent of students said their newest computer was four years old or more.

The percentage of students who say they download music or video continues to increase, from 71 percent in 2004 to 84 percent this year–suggesting that IT administrators must continue exploring ways to shape, manage, or increase bandwidth on their campus networks.

Forty-five percent of students said they contribute content to video web sites, 37 percent said they contribute to blogs, 35 percent said they use podcasts, and 38 percent said they use their computer to make phone calls using a voice-over-IP system, such as Skype.

The surge in students’ use of social-networking tools has been accompanied by "a decline in a technology once seen as the definitive mode of teenage online communication: instant messaging," says the report. Whereas nine in 10 respondents said they use social networks and text messaging, only 74 percent said they use IM.

The use of learning management systems on college campuses is on the rise as well, and students appear to be happy with the technology. From 2006 to 2009, students’ use of learning management systems rose from 80 percent to 91 percent–and 89 percent of respondents in this year’s survey said they have taken a course that used an LMS during the current academic year.

Most students who have used an LMS said their experience was either positive (52 percent) or very positive (11 percent).

"Institutions’ investments in [learning management systems] appear to be paying off," the report said. "[And] instructors who have implemented [the] technology can take heart from our finding that nearly two-thirds [of students] said they disagree … with the statement, ‘I skip classes when materials from course lectures are available online.’"

Respondents were lukewarm about their professors’ use of other technologies, however.

Fewer than half (45 percent) of students said most of their instructors use technology effectively in their courses. Only 46 percent said most of their instructors have sufficient IT skills for teaching with technology, and just 34 percent said most of their instructors give them adequate training for the technology used in their courses.

Although the survey revealed a surge in the use of mobile devices among students, several respondents commented on the distraction these are causing in the classroom.

When asked if they thought instructors should be able to ban the use of mobile devices during instruction, 51 percent of students said yes. Agreement was much higher among older students than younger ones.

For the first time, the 2009 survey asked, "How should your institution first notify you of a campus emergency?" More students said they would prefer to be notified by a text message than other forms of communication, such as eMail, a phone call, or a public address system.

In conclusion, "it appears that a revolution in undergraduates’ use of the mobile internet has already begun," the report said. "A quarter of the respondents to this year’s study told us they are using handheld devices weekly or more often to access the internet. This level of use may not be taxing the support capacity of higher-education IT departments at the moment, but if the numbers of users increase, as they likely will if the cost of mobile internet access drops, institutions could be quickly overwhelmed with demands for technical support and development of new mobile services."

Link:

ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009

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Money Matters

Strategies and solutions your schools need right now

MoneyMatters50PCTC
10 ways to save on schoolbudgets, How to trim the fat without hitting the bone

Also inside:
Grant-seeking skills you can bank on, Going ‘green’ to stay out of the red & Keeping ed tech off the chopping block

Download this issue: 2009 Money Matters

Contents
  • Ten often-overlooked ways to save on school budgets (pg 6)
  • Going ‘green’ to stay out of the red (pg 9)
  • Ten habits of highly effective grant seekers (pg 12)
  • Beyond grants: How to raise funds in a crummy economy (pg 16)
  • Defending your ed-tech budget in tough times (pg 20)
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Web-savvy parents have art for raising money

Parents of students at Cobble Hill’s Public School 29 last summer launched an online viral marketing campaign that brought in $40,000 in just a month and rescued the school’s arts programs from the chopping block, reports the New York Daily News. Thanks to a web site, some videos, and the internet’s rapid-fire transmission, donations poured in from as far away as South America and Eastern Europe. Deep cuts to the school’s budget had left almost nothing for arts education. That news disturbed PS 29 parent and freelance web designer Sylvia Wehrle, so she decided to try some of the same marketing and design techniques she’s used for her clients. She and a colleague created a web site (5days4arts.org) and made 3-minute videos featuring kids in the school’s arts programs, as well as interviews with teachers and visiting artists. They posted one a day for the final five days of school, and then blasted parents with eMails, asking them to pass them on. "Somebody could eMail their grandmother in Argentina and get them to watch the videos," Wehrle said. "You can’t get that with a backpack flyer." The site included a simple, eye-catching red button so visitors could donate online from anywhere in the world. It also had one that let visitors easily share the videos through eMail and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. And they did…

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Hutchison wants more technology in Texas schools

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said Nov. 24 that if elected governor of Texas, her education plan would focus on bringing more technology to the classroom and helping schools find ways to save money, reports the Associated Press. Hutchison, who is challenging Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary for governor in March, unveiled her plans in a biotechnology lab at the Collin County Community College District in the Dallas suburb of Plano. "Now is the time for us to be really creative using technology," said Hutchison, who said she has approached several companies about developing an e-learning device that could replace conventional textbooks. Hutchison also said she’d like every college and university in the state to offer a version of the University of Texas’ UTeach program, which recruits and trains math, science, and computer science majors to become high school teachers. To help lower the high school dropout rate, Hutchison proposed initiatives that include helping middle school students who are behind to catch up at an accelerated pace and offering online learning. Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner said many of the education topics Hutchison talked about have been addressed by the governor already, including expanding technology in schools and financial accountability in districts…

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Students spread the Google gospel

Boise State University senior and self-described Google fanatic Taylor Bell landed his dream job this semester when the internet mega-site hired him as an ambassador, charged with evangelizing Google’s array of applications to tech-hungry college students.

Google has 121 ambassadors on 69 campuses nationwide after sifting through thousands of applications and awarding the company’s first ambassadorships to students last year. The Google student representatives are not paid, but they are rewarded with free water bottles and T-shirts, said Miriam Schneider, a product marketing manager for Google.

Google delivers online tutorials to its ambassadors, showing what features they should pitch to students in on-campus meetings.

Bell said a recent lesson he gave to a group of Boise State football players showed how they can collaborate in groups of up to 10 people using Google Docs, an application that lets students create a study sheet in real time in remote locations, for example.

"It kind of blows their minds a little bit," said Bell, 25, a communications major. "A lot of people didn’t have any idea you could do some of these things. … I don’t think they realize how powerful some of these tools really are."

Schneider said spreading the word during major product rollouts like Google Wave–an application that allows for real-time communication using videos, maps, photos, and text–helps the company create tools that better cater to students, a demographic that often uses Google products before the general public.

"We want [ambassadors] to really be foot soldiers on campus … who are the early adopters," Schneider said. "It’s important for us to know exactly how students are using our products … and to build a bridge between Google and the people who are actually using the products. For us, it really shapes the way the products are developed."

Google’s student outreach isn’t limited to the college campuses staffed with ambassadors. The company has launched a Twitter page, a blog, a Facebook page, and a YouTube channel all dedicated to communicating with students.

The company uses the blog to push applications that can be useful in the lecture hall and during late-night library study sessions.

On Nov. 17, a Google blog post trumpeted the launch of Google Sites templates, described as "pre-packaged sites that anyone can use to make creating your own web site even easier."

"This is especially valuable for students so that when you’re making your site you can now skip a few steps, and instead of making a site from scratch, start with a template," the blog says. "You can use site templates to organize, publish, and share information about your school, class, projects, fraternity or sorority, school club, intramural teams, or any other organization or event."

Google invited a handful of students, including Bell and Daniel Miller, a Google ambassador at the University of Washington, to the annual EDUCAUSE conference in Denver Nov. 3-6. Students manned the mammoth Google both on the conference’s exhibit floor and helped answer questions from passersby.

Miller said he has helped Washington students create an exam study guide in Google Docs, a program they were only somewhat familiar with.

"I sort of walked them through it at first," Miller said, "and they took to it and really figured it out."

To qualify for a Google ambassadorship–which lasts one academic year–applicants must be enrolled in a North American college or university, demonstrate passion for technology, and commit to about five hours a month for planning Google events on campus. Each ambassador is expected to host three to four events during the school year.

Bell said his ambassadorship proves that Google doesn’t judge applications solely by grade point average. With a GPA under 3.0, Bell thought his chances were slim, but he wrote about his decade-long study of Google’s rise to prominence in his online application–a strategy he believes clinched his ambassadorship.

"I wasn’t trying to just write anything they wanted to hear," Bell said.

Bell’s loyalty to the search giant was evident in 2004, when Google unveiled its eMail program, called Gmail. Gmail subscriptions were only available through online invites on a limited basis, so Bell paid someone $5 through PayPal to eMail him an invitation.

"I knew that Gmail was going to be huge, and I’m the type of person who has to get in on the ground floor," he said. "It’s fast and it’s simple, and I haven’t looked back since."

Being Boise State’s Google go-to, Bell said, hopefully will evolve into a full-time, post-college job with the company.

"My passion for technology mixed with my love of continued education really connects with [Google’s] message," he said. "I can’t help but have a huge grin on my face whenever I talk about it."

Links:

Google’s student blog

Google’s student YouTube page

Google’s student Twitter account

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