Prince George’s schools to salvage computer system

An investigation by Prince George’s County, Md., school officials found the SchoolMax scheduling system that snarled the first days of the new school year had significant shortcomings that required repeated repairs. But it also determined that replacing the system would be more costly and time-consuming than fixing it, reports the Washington Post. Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said that many of the problems with SchoolMax, a computer system chosen in 2005 to help Prince George’s County comply with federal requirements for keeping track of data, had been ironed out, and that it would be easier to get SchoolMax working correctly than to build a system from scratch. "We have a significant investment" in SchoolMax, said Hite. He also outlined a series of changes that had improved results and were intended to prevent a repeat of the confusion that plagued the district in late August, when the new school year began (see “SchoolMax cited in back-to-school nightmare”) …

Click here for the full story

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The Victoria College Implements SunGard Higher Education Banner Unified Digital Campus Within 18 Months

MALVERN, Pa, November 16, 2009 — The Victoria College has successfully implemented the core modules of the SunGard Higher Education Banner Unified Digital Campus (UDC) within 18 months, helping bring improved student services to its constituents faster and at less cost than a traditional implementation.

The Victoria College, located in Victoria, Texas, replaced its existing student, finance, HR/payroll and advancement systems with SunGard Higher Education’s Banner administrative systems in just 18 months. Banner Financial Aid is scheduled to go live in February. The College’s digital campus includes enhancements to support the state’s reporting requirements, and the Luminis Platform.
 
The College engaged with SunGard Higher Education for its Win Services, a collection of services that are designed to implement the Banner UDC within a compressed timeframe. Win Services support a package of applications that have been mostly pre-configured using proven best practices gained from years of experience. Win Services are designed to help deliver a quicker and more standardized implementation.
 
“By using SunGard’s Win Services, we delivered better service to our students and our community more quickly than if we had done it all ourselves,” said Dr. Larry Garrett, executive director of Institutional Planning, Assessment and Special Projects at The Victoria College. “In addition to going live in a compressed timeframe, Win Services gave us access to experienced SunGard consultants who helped us re-examine our business processes across functions, and make significant improvements. Win Services helped us execute a very highly-organized implementation with multiple and concurrent go lives that met our timeline and budget targets.”
 
The Victoria College had in-house developed legacy systems prior to implementing the Banner UDC. Although the College’s systems provided extensive functionality to its users, they were not integrated with one another. “By implementing the Banner UDC, the College will have a fully-supported enterprise administrative system that can extend and grow with the institution,” said Dr. Garrett. “We expect to gain greater efficiency and be able to leverage new technology advances more easily. We believe Banner UDC will ultimately help us offer better service to our students and our community.
 
“The Victoria College recognizes that implementations of this scale can put tremendous demands on an entire staff,” said Brad Rucker, senior vice president of services at SunGard Higher Education. “By leveraging our Win Services delivery model, the institution was able to overcome the resource and cost restraints typically associated with the implementation of an enterprise administrative system and deliver the benefits to its constituents sooner, and on time and on budget.”
 
About The Victoria College
Victoria College is a public community college serving approximately 4000 students in a seven-county area surrounding the city of Victoria in South-Central Texas. VC is a full-service community college with the majority of its enrollment in academic transfer, nursing and allied health programs.  Other programs at VC include fire and police academies, emergency medical services, truck driving, computer and technical programs, construction and industrial trades, and workforce development.
 
About SunGard Higher Education
SunGard Higher Education serves colleges, universities and foundations in 40 countries worldwide.  Through its Open Digital Campus strategy, SunGard collaborates with the higher education community and provides software and services to help institutions find better ways to teach, learn, manage and connect.  To learn more, please visit www.sungardhe.com.
 
About SunGard
SunGard is one of the world’s leading software and IT services companies.  SunGard serves more than 25,000 customers in more than 70 countries.
 
SunGard provides software and processing solutions for financial services, higher education and the public sector.   SunGard also provides disaster recovery services, managed IT services, information availability consulting services and business continuity management software.

With annual revenue exceeding $5 billion, SunGard is ranked 435 on the Fortune 500 and is the largest privately held business software and services company on the Forbes list of private businesses. Based on information compiled by Datamonitor*, SunGard is the third largest provider of business applications software after Oracle and SAP. Continuity, Insurance & Risk has recognized SunGard as service provider of the year an unprecedented six times.  For more information, please visit SunGard at
www.sungard.com.

*January 2009 Technology Vendors Financial Database Tracker
http://www.datamonitor.com
 
Trademark information: SunGard, the SunGard logo, Banner, Luminis and Open Digital Campus are trademarks or registered trademarks of SunGard Data Systems Inc. or its subsidiaries in the U.S. and other countries. All other trade names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders.
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States boost access to online education

A new survey intended to evaluate online-learning policies and practices from coast to coast reveals significant growth in state and district support for this instructional model at the K-12 level. At least 25 states now lead statewide online-learning initiatives, according to the survey, which is a dramatic increase from the 15 states driving programs only a year ago.

For the annual survey, conducted by e.Republic’s Center for Digital Education (CDE) and titled “Online Learning Policy and Practice Survey: A Survey of the States,” education officials from 44 states provided insight into the status of online learning in their states.

The results were released Nov. 16 in conjunction with the International Association for K-12 Online Learning’s (iNACOL’s) annual Virtual School Symposium, taking place in Austin, Texas, this year.

“Online learning remains one of the most powerful and transformative mediums for U.S. education,” said Marina Leight, CDE’s vice president of education. “This year’s review of policy revealed some exciting changes among the states. We applaud the policy makers across the nation who are driving the creation of new programs, and commend the leaders with already-existing programs who continue to ensure online learning is a top priority.”

The survey highlights state approaches to online education by looking at key areas such as program offerings, funding, policies, enrollment trends, course offerings, K-20 ventures, teacher licensing, and reform efforts. It also ranks the success of state online-learning initiatives and serves as a benchmark for other states and their programs.

According to the CDE, the rankings reflect the online-learning vision, policies, programs, and strategies that states have deployed in an effort to meet the needs of students.

The organization used iNACOL’s definition of state-led online programs, which are programs created by state legislation or by a state-level agency, administered by a state education agency, and/or directly funded by a state appropriation or grant for the purpose of providing online-learning opportunities across the state.

Full-time online programs are defined as online-learning programs in which students enroll and earn credit toward academic advancement following the successful completion of the course. In addition, CDE defines statewide programs as those providing accessibility to students throughout the entire state.

The survey revealed that at least 27 states have statewide online-learning initiatives–two of the states have statewide programs in place that are not led by the state itself–and another four states have plans to implement online-learning programs soon.

For the second year in a row, CDE named Florida as the No. 1 state in online education. Its statewide program, the Florida Virtual School, boasts nearly 125,000 students and saw a 25-percent increase in attendance in the last year, according to the survey.

Rounding out the top 10 states in CDE’s rankings are South Carolina, New Mexico, Hawaii, Michigan, Louisiana, Idaho, Minnesota, Oregon, and Arkansas.

What the states revealed

In terms of funding, nine states with state-led virtual schools fund their online institutions using the same formula that traditional schools use to receive funding.

These state-led virtual schools differ from their traditional counterparts in that, in addition to the formula funding, the institutions often receive tuition funding either from the district level or from students.

For example, Colorado has a unique funding structure for its statewide virtual school. Colorado operates a supplemental statewide online institution, though it is technically a nonprofit organization. Because it is regarded as a supplemental school, it receives a formula-based appropriation from the state. The school also charges the districts of participating students on a per-student, per-semester basis.

Full-time online charter schools are funded in a variety of ways, but typically they are funded by the state at the same rate as on-site charter schools. In some cases, their funding is based on enrollment levels.

The greatest variety in funding strategies for online-learning programs resides within states that allow district-run online programs.

One innovative state, Nebraska, has established a way for high schools to be reimbursed up to $20,000 on a one-time basis if they have students enrolled in distance education. An additional $1,000 is provided per each online course completed. These reimbursement funds are awarded by the state on Sept. 1 for the prior year’s coursework.

CDE predicts that innovative funding strategies will become commonplace in the coming years, as states look to address general-fund issues and deal with budget constraints. In Alaska, this is already occurring, as the state plans to use federal stimulus funds to establish a statewide virtual school.

In terms of enrollment, 22 states with statewide online-learning programs experienced a spike in enrollment over the past year. Six states saw their virtual-school enrollment increase by more than 50 percent, and another six states saw enrollment increase between 25 and 50 percent.

One of the largest increases in online enrollment for the 2008-09 school year happened in Mississippi, which saw its numbers grow from 5,000 to 7,000 students.

CDE predicts that growth in online-learning programs will continue to increase as more programs are implemented, more grade levels are covered, and more courses are offered.

According to the survey, 27 states indicated that online learning is in their strategy for school reform.

Within these states, online-learning programs are used to enhance the curriculum offered to students, increase student access to high-quality instruction, and/or address teacher shortages or overcrowded classrooms.

Online programs are having a major impact in rural areas. According to CDE, it has been difficult in the past for small, rural districts to find highly qualified teachers for certain subjects, such as advanced math or science courses. The survey reveals that state policy makers believe online courses have allowed rural students to take courses they otherwise would not have access to.

For example, New Hampshire has issued a set of Extended Learning Opportunity guidelines that note the importance of online education.

However, CDE’s findings also revealed there are many obstacles that states face when trying to move forward with online education–and many of these are connected to funding.

States with a large number of school districts have more trouble implementing
statewide online-learning policies and programs than states with fewer districts, the survey found. In these large states, it’s important to have strong, centralized state leadership in place to move forward with online learning.

“Nevertheless, despite the current economic state of the country, online learning will continue to expand its reach,” said the survey. “As the number of models for online education increase and students and teachers grow comfortable with their new education
tools, online learning will be on its way to becoming an integral piece of the U.S. education system.”

The report also details the number of students served in each state, as well as course offerings, K-20 ventures, licensure reciprocity, and more. It was underwritten by Blackboard Inc. and was produced with the advice and consultation of iNACOL.

Links:

Center for Digital Education

e.Republic

Blackboard Inc.

iNACOL

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Google rewrites landmark book-search deal

Internet search leader Google Inc. will ease its control over millions of copyright-protected books earmarked for its digital library if a court approves a revised lawsuit settlement that addresses objections of antitrust regulators.

The offer comes two months after the U.S. Justice Department balked at Google’s original agreement with authors and publishers, warning the arrangement could do more harm than good in the emerging market for electronic books.

Google is hoping to keep the deal alive with a series of new provisions. Among other things, the modified agreement provides more flexibility to offer discounts on electronic books and promises to make it easier for others to resell access to a digital index of books covered in the settlement.

Copyright holders also would have to give more explicit permission to sell digital book copies if another version is being sold anywhere else in the world.

The concessions filed late on Nov. 13 in New York federal court are just the latest twist in a class-action lawsuit filed against Google four years ago by groups representing the interests of U.S. authors and publishers. The suit alleged Google’s ambition to make digital copies of all the books in the world trampled their intellectual rights.

Google negotiated a $125 million truce nearly 13 months ago, only to be attacked by a brigade of critics who protested to U.S. District Judge Denny Chin, who must approve the agreement before it takes effect. The financial terms of the settlement remain intact, including a promise to give 63 percent of all sales proceeds to participating authors and publishers.

Among other complaints, the opposition said the plan would put Google in charge of a literary cartel that could illegally rig the prices of electronic books–a format that is expected to become increasingly popular.

In echoing some of those concerns, the Justice Department advised Chin that the original settlement probably would break laws set up to preserve competition and protect copyright holders, even if they can’t be located.

The concessions didn’t go far enough to satisfy one of the most strident opponents, the Open Book Alliance, a group that includes Google rivals Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., and Amazon.com Inc.

"Our initial review of the new proposal tells us that Google and its partners are performing a sleight of hand," said Peter Brantley, the Open Book Alliance’s co-chairman. "Fundamentally, this settlement remains a set piece designed to serve the private commercial interests of Google and its partners."

In a Nov. 13 conference call, representatives for Google, authors, and publishers expressed confidence the revisions would gain court approval, although they conceded they didn’t respond to all misgivings raised by the Justice Department.

Under the timeline laid out in the revised settlement, the Justice Department would have until Feb. 4 to file its opinion about the changes. The revised settlement suggests that a final hearing be scheduled for Feb. 18.

French and German officials also protested the settlement, arguing it’s so broad that it could infringe on copyrights in their countries.

The revised settlement would apply only to books registered with the U.S. copyright office or published in Canada, the United Kingdom, or Australia.

Much of the concern about the settlement has focused on whether it would give Google a monopoly on so-called "orphan works"–out-of-print books that are still protected by copyright but whose writers’ whereabouts are unknown.

If the writers or their heirs don’t stake a claim to their works, the original settlement calls for any money made from the sales of their books to go into a pool that eventually would be shared among the authors and publishers who had stepped forward to work with Google.

The revised settlement will designate an independent party to oversee the financial interests of the orphan books’ copyright owners.

Proceeds from the sales of orphan books also would be held for 10 years, up from five years in the original agreement. After that, the money would be given to charities.

Link:

Amended settlement agreement

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Glass or bottle…?

It’s Friday night, you’re tired after a long week at work and all you want to do is get home, have something to eat, pour yourself a large glass of wine and toast to the weekend ahead. Perhaps you’ve got friends coming over for a few drinks and a take out, or even a BBQ if the sun dares to shine again this summer. Whatever your weekend plans, its more than likely to involve sipping on a few glasses of vino and enjoying the two days off away from the daily grind.

If, like many, one glass of wine slips down far too easily at the weekend (or indeed any other day of the week!), and you find yourself reaching for another, then GettingPersonal have just the gift for you and any other fellow wine lovers. Our Personalised Giant Wine Glass can actually hold an entire bottle of wine so there’s no need to keep returning to the kitchen away from the party to fill your glass up. This really is the perfect gift for those times when a bottle of wine is far too good to share!

Not only can this fantastic invention hold a full bottle of your favourite wine, it can also be personalised with a hand engraved message of your choice, and so has made a fantastic addition to our engraved gifts range.

With a height of 23cm and a width of 11cm, the Personalised Giant Wine Glass is available from GettingPersonal.co.uk for only 16.95.

This and many other stunning engraved gifts can be delivered free-of-charge when more than 30 is spent in one transaction. Items are usually dispatched within 24 hours.

Go on; put a smile on their face! 

Unique high quality gifts & personalised gifts at affordable prices, delivered quickly and guaranteed with a smile.To explore our range of engraved gifts further, please visit our website at http://www.gettingpersonal.co.uk.

 

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Best Online Mortgage Loan – 7 Secrets for Home Equity

During the time present are many various number of 1% mortgage investment, present are really single two main sign to achievements with a 1% mortgage finance.

 

The earliest source is to promote to really the mortgage is arrange perfectly from the opening. Along with the additional is to promote too certainly you are make do with the advance perfectly to achieve the largely profit.

 

Basically, let’s have a discussion just about how the mortgage installation.  After that we’ll make into how to appoint the mortgage higher perfectly usually you can crop the economic benefit these mortgage investments have to award.

 

Before all else, 1% mortgage investment maintain amount choice.  Every month as you obtain your mortgage record you will have the choice to promote to a 30 year attach amount, a 15 year set amount, an importance single amount along with a smallest amount by 1%.

 

Admitting you are certain many amount choice, you must simply pick the 1% smallest amount. 

 

Why?

 

For the reason that if you felt a need to promote to a 30 year set, 15 year set, or appeal single amount, you would be choice finish clean up that way of credit.  As rule as, these amounts are senior with a amount choice mortgage credit.

 

If you pick the 1% smallest amount your basic profit will be a important monthly amount markdown.  Your mortgage amount will likely be cut down in semi. By all means, this is a cheerful smart basic profit used for mainly home-produced purchaser.

 

To compost the capability of deciding the 1% smallest amount you ought to keep safe what you keep safe.  For request, let’s say you refinanced your home town with a 1% mortgage credit; advance all your credit cards, along with cheap your monthly amount by $1,000 a month. 

 

Nowadays, if you keep safe that $1,000 a month for physically as a replacement for of giving it to your creditors, you will have $60,000 in ready money at the finish of five years – along with that’s with a nothing commission arrival.

 

Here’s the following profit to deciding the 1% smallest amount choice:

Tax savings.

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If you promote to an profit single amount your mortgage stability will stay the similar.  If you promote to a 1% smallest amount you are in fact paying a reduced amount of than profit simply.  Accordingly, you are beginning delayed profit which arranges your mortgage stability expand every month.

 

 Sooner than you fad out, allow for that delayed profit is mortgage profit along with is accordingly tax confirmable.

 

Let’s say your house is available up in price $2,000 a month.  The 1% mortgage credit will authorize you to catch a little example of that gratefulness, say $500 a month, and bend it into a tax derivation.

 

Usually you are taking a little part of your fairness each month and rotating it into a tax derivation.  If you did not sort out this, all of your gratefulness would be safe and sound up in fairness. 

 

Square deal is awful and is assuredly individual of the several profits to house property.  Although investing in square deal will obtain you a nothing commission arrival. 

 

No body is available to decline you a check apiece month for the square deal in your house.  At the same time as a topic of verity, if you felt a need to make the square deal out of your house you would have to trade your house or find a mortgage.  Along with you best commission or you will not be capable to find a mortgage.

 

So why not take a little part of your square deal every one month, bend it into a tax derivation, and by the similar period keep safe $1,000 a month for your character? You will fix have heaps of square deal although with a 1% mortgage credit you will have ready money AND square deal.

 

If you sort out this for a few duration of period you will extend out way expand prematurely financially than if you did a usual 30 year set or an interest only mortgage credit.

 

A part from, if the delayed profit is a affair, try making bi-weekly amounts.  Making a bi-weekly amount will cut, and in various event cut out the delayed profit all mutually.  Which method your mortgage stability would not expand.

 

How to fit the loan up acceptably:

 

1)  The 1% amount choice on this investment is simply open for the basic five years.  But you could really keep individual of these loans for 30 or 40 years.  If you pick a 40 year mortgage your monthly amount will be decrease however the amount choice will not continue for five years.  The label of the game is to keep the 1% amount whereas viable.  So make a 30 year paying off.

 

2)  The 30 year, 15 year and profit simply amounts are fixed to an key.  Choose a slower tender sign according to the MTA (Monthly assets Average) instead of a sooner affecting sign according to the Libor (London Inter-Bank Offered Rate).

So how can you reduce with a 1% mortgage advance?

 

Answer- decrease.

 

If houses in your section are quickly going down in price, delayed profit could basis you to develop into upside down in the property.

 

However if your section is experiencing a 3% to 5% rate of gratefulness and you keep safe what you save by making the smallest amount, a 1% mortgage credit can have an by much clear effect on your economic prospect.

 

For extra advice about 1% mortgage investment and other mortgage linked points, please visit:       http://www.bestonlinemortgageloans.com

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Announcing The Higher Ed Services Portal

 

Announcing The Higher Ed Services Portal
The Higher Ed Services Portal offers Higher Education executives a venue in which to conduct comprehensive research on thousands of products and services specific to the Higher Education marketplace while saving time and money.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, November 16, 2009
For those executives who see time as a barrier The Higher Education Services Portal www.higheredservicesportal.com might just be an ideal research tool. The Higher Education Services Portal was strategically designed to provide executive leadership with a free all-inclusive platform in which to conduct research and comparative analysis of thousands of products, services and companies specific to the higher education marketplace.
The portal has aggressive plans to list over 1,000 vendors with thousands products and services specific to the needs of higher education. “The portal will be an evolving tool over the next few years; we hope to continually improve our offering with the help of our user community and as vendor participation increases. What you see today should drastically improve quarter by quarter”, said David Smith, Vice President and investment partner.  With over 50 years experience in the higher education industry, our management team knows the value in connecting institutional executives with the right vendor in an expedient manner.  We believe this vendor neutral research platform is the answer to providing vendor product and service specific research needs to the Higher Education community.
In early 2009 the Portal will offer a monthly enews letter, executive forum, an RFP posting board, hosted webinars, white papers and a host of other free services to the members of the educational community.  If you wish to pre-subscribe to our monthly enews letter, email us at newsletter@higheredservicesportal.com or visit us on our home page.
 
 
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Goldentextadz is open for membership drive.

Text Ad Exchange Goldentextadz.com is now open for new membership drive worldwide.
   
All new member use promo code: seven and get 177777 points with 7 Solos, 7 Banner Ads with 1000 views, 7 Traffic Links with 200 views, 7 Login Ads with 1000 views and 7 Navigation Links. Members clicks on each others members’ solos ads, banners, login ads and text traffic links to earns points in exchange for advertising features to advertise their websites/services/affiliates and/or programs. Free member earns $3 for their Ultimate Pro Lifetime Unlimited Access status while Pro members earn $10 for their paid up PRO referrals. Members get more bonus prize points for clicking more and more ads.  
 

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NSBA’s T+L 2009 explores school innovation

"Innovation" was the watchword at the National School Boards Association’s 2009 Technology + Learning (T+L) conference last month in Denver.

Keynote speaker Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect, kicked off the annual education-technology conference Oct. 28 by revealing what he believes are the keys to innovation. A panel session on Oct. 29 followed up on that theme, discussing how technology can help bring successful school innovations to scale. And NSBA honored several outstanding innovators who are using technology to help improve learning with its "20 to Watch" awards.

Meanwhile, in the conference exhibit hall, nearly 300 ed-tech companies demonstrated innovative new products and services developed for schools.

Keys to innovation

Bringing together teachers and school leaders with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and outlooks can help drive educational innovation, said Johansson during the opening general session.

"All new ideas are combinations of existing ideas," he said. "The best chance at innovation is when we combine things from different fields. … Many times, if [ideas] are closely related, they’re not very innovative."

Innovation, as defined by Johansson, occurs when people take the knowledge and wisdom of their network of colleagues and combine it with something completely different.

The title of Johansson’s book refers to the proliferation of new ideas and the burst of creativity enabled by the Medici banking family in Renaissance Italy. He said innovative individuals and teams generate more ideas–and diverse teams of innovators generate far more ideas.

"Find inspiration from fields or cultures other than your own, and dare to explore the connections between them," he urged a room full of school board members, educators, and technology leaders. "And prepare your students to innovate."

He also stressed the importance of expecting and accepting failure, and he noted how students are already used to dealing with failure from their experience with video games. Johansson said students don’t look at failure as the end, but rather an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and try again.

"You will not know what ideas will work or not, so reserve resources for many trials," he said. "Passion maximizes the chance for success. Your ideas may fail, so you’re going to have to keep trying. And encourage your students to explore interesting idea combinations on their own."

Bringing innovations to scale

Technology allows educators to share the innovative best practices and ideas they gather with others easily, said panelists during an Oct. 29 discussion titled "Innovation, Technology, and Going to Scale."

Jean Hendrickson, executive director of Oklahoma A+ Schools, said that when addressing challenges in a school district, educators should envision a specific child they care about and then think of all of the opportunities they would want that child to have while in school.

"Technology can help us to do it all. But it can’t do it all [by itself]. It is a tool. It is inert without input, without humanity, without thinking about the child that you love and outcomes that we need, and getting beyond half answers," she said.

Paul Kelley, founder and headmaster of Monkseaton High School in the United Kingdom, agreed that investing in technological innovation is something educators need to do more vigorously.

Kelley said educators need to take the $650 million in "Investing in Innovation" (I3) grant money proposed by the Obama administration and spend it wisely to boost education. (See "Feds propose rules for $650M innovation fund.")

"It could really mean that education in this country could do something very special," he said, adding that grant winners should share their innovations broadly with their colleagues. "It is a tremendous opportunity in the next few years in the [United] States."

Kathy Christie, chief of staff for the Education Commission of the States, said she believes most policy makers want to do things the "right way" to help improve education.

"Sometimes they just don’t know what that way is, like most of us don’t always know what the right way is," she said. "I’m a big fan of … ‘creative compliance.’ As long as you have the right end in mind–which is what’s good for the kids–I think most policy makers are very willing to listen and learn something new and adapt."

Christie said that as the federal government is working to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, federal officials should be encouraged to take the regulations governing programs such as Title I and English as a Second Language and make them one entity to help at-risk students.

But Kelley disagreed with Christie, stating that it’s not the job of the federal government to decide what is the right thing to do to improve education.

"The big job over the next 30 years is allowing educators to work with other people to find better solutions," he said. "And I don’t doubt that politicians and policy people generally care about students, but they don’t know what they’re doing."

20 to Watch

During its annual T+L conference, NSBA honored 20 emerging leaders in education technology, ranging from teachers to superintendents to directors of nonprofit organizations.

The leaders make up NSBA’s "20 to Watch," an annual list of movers and shakers chosen by the organization’s Technology Leadership Network (TLN). These individuals were recognized for championing initiatives that are making a difference for students, teachers, school districts, and the greater ed-tech community.

"This year’s 20 to Watch represents educators who see the potential that technology brings to the learning environment, and they know how to translate that knowledge in a way that excites and inspires their students and colleagues," said Ann Flynn, director of education technology for NSBA.

"We hope their stories and experiences will influence policy makers and encourage district leaders to develop and support programs that allow their successes to be replicated across the country."

Brian Nichols, principal at Hidenwood Elementary School in Virginia’s Newport News Public Schools, said he thinks his district’s progressive approach to education is what made him stand out among the other "20 to Watch" nominees. Nichols helped develop an after-school academy where students can immerse themselves in technology.

"They’re trying to save the world through technology," he said of the students. "They’ve [created public service announcements] about saving the Chesapeake Bay … and the program is targeted to students who aren’t meeting their [state] benchmarks."

After one year of being in the program, he said, 95 percent of participants passed the state-required tests.

Nichols’ students aren’t the only ones trying to save the world. Anne Smith, a language-arts teacher at Littleton Public Schools in Colorado, said her students–who are primarily ninth graders–also operate with changing the world in mind.

"It’s about what the kids want to do to [improve the world around them]," she said. "So they find ways to make a difference … [and then] kids see that what they do makes an impact."

Smith said her students regularly participate in live blogging events with authors such as Cory Doctorow, who wrote "Little Brother," and Daniel Pink, author of "A Whole New Mind," who has worked with the students for about two years. They also use Skype, a software application that allows users to make free voice calls over the internet, to interact with the authors, as well as with fellow students when they are sick and have to stay home.

Innovation is something that Barbara Kurshan, executive director of Curriki, said drives her and the nonprofit social entrepreneurship organization that she runs. Curriki supports the development and free distribution of open-source educational materials to improve education worldwide.

"Curriki is the [winner] here," she said of being included in this year’s "20 to Watch" list. "I’m lucky to be the leader … where I’m getting a chance to do things that change the way teaching and learning is done."

Kurshan said standing out isn’t the reason Curriki works to build a community of teachers who share knowledge and information with their colleagues worldwide.

"We just do it because it’s the right thing to do," she said.

More information about this year’s "20 to Watch" winners can be found here.

News from the exhibit hall

Nearly 300 companies were on hand at this year’s T+L to demonstrate their latest ed-tech products and services. Here are some of the highlights.

Alcatel-Lucent introduced two new IP routers that offer an economically viable alternative for schools in rural areas to receive the same advanced broadband service currently available in larger metropolitan areas, according to the company.

AlertNow showcased its rapid communication service, designed specifically for K-12 schools. The service reportedly can deliver voice, eMail, and emergency SMS (Short Message Service, or text messaging) at a rate up to two million messages per hour, keeping parents and staff up to date on important and time-sensitive information. Besides delivering routine messaging, AlertNow can serve as a critical component in a school’s crisis plan, the company said–ensuring that accurate information is communicated immediately in the event of a lockdown, relocation, evacuation, or other emergency.

American Education announced new courses in History II and three updated math courses for students in grades 1-3 as part of its A+nywhere Learning System courseware. The upgrades include more semi-interactive features and colors to make lessons more engaging to students. The company also said its A+ Classroom Student Response Software, which gives teachers the ability to make automated quizzes and formative assessments to check student learning on the fly, soon will be compatible with eInstruction’s student response systems. The software already is compatible with response systems from several other companies, including Promethean, Renaissance Learning, and Turning Technologies.

Ascend Education announced that its K-12 math solution is now available in Spanish to help students for whom English is a second language. Ascend Math includes skill-reinforcing multimedia components and is offered as a full line of courseware, from elementary math through Algebra 1. Resources include video-based lessons and directions, audio-enhanced practice problems, and student study guides.

Aspen Learning launched a new version of its OpenClassroom server, which comes loaded with safe collaborative tools and personal storage space for students, as well as learning management tools for teachers. Based on Intel’s Atom 330 dual-core processor, the new device reportedly is twice as fast as the previous version and will be available at the same price, the company said.

BoardDocs launched an "all-new" version of its paperless school-board solution at the conference, powered by Web 2.0 technology. With the all-new BoardDocs, any browser can be used to access the system’s flexible and responsive interface, and new features include advanced meeting control, enhanced annotation capabilities, improved workflow processes, and delegated policy administration. The new system moves the power of document management away from the IT department and directly into the hands of those who actually create and manage the documents, BoardDocs says.

Datawise showcased its Datawise MEASURES automated assessment and data-management solution, which offers real-time integration with leading student information systems and an automatic nightly roster refresh. Datawise says it has provided assessment and data management to California school districts since 2000.

Eastern Townships School Board of Quebec reportedly has acquired a worldwide reputation for its implementation of a one-to-one wireless laptop program for all students in grades 3-9. The board is now offering ed-tech consulting services to other districts. Board members say they will conduct an on-site needs assessment, design and provide direct support for meeting a district’s key challenges, and provide online professional development both before and after direct contact with client districts.

Epson previewed new ultra short-throw projectors, the Epson PowerLite 450W and Epson PowerLite 460, that are ideal for use with standard or interactive whiteboards, as the ultra short-throw distance significantly reduces shadow interference, Epson said. Designed to meet the growing demand for wall-mounted projectors, the models include hardware for quick, easy, and inexpensive installation. The PowerLite 450W and 460 also include built-in closed captioning support, a 10-watt speaker, the ability to deliver presentations over a network, and optional wireless capabilities.

GlobalScholar demonstrated its Pinnacle Suite of software, which allows teachers to analyze student data flexibly and accurately, the company said. The software supports multiple rubric-based assessment methods, and it allows teachers to link assessments to specific learning standards and benchmarks; track student attendance, demographics, and performance; automatically generate customized, real-time reports for district administrators and parents, as well as standards-based report cards and required district and state agency reports; and tailor data collection according to individual needs.

Infinite Campus laid out its long-term vision for the type of data collection it hopes to be able to achieve in the future. The company plans to launch individualized learner plans, where the system works similar to Amazon.com or Netflix and uses the information it is given to suggest activities that students might be interested in. The goal is to help teachers spend less time with paperwork and other things that take away from teaching and give them more time with their students. Infinite Campus said it was rated by Gartner Industry Research in September as being the only "strong positive" student information systems provider among nine in the K-12 market.

Lightspeed Systems discussed its solutions for securing, monitoring, filtering, managing, and optimizing school networks. The company says its aim is to help balance safety and learning so that network security doesn’t limit the educational power of the internet. Lightspeed prides itself on offering an "intelligent" and granular filtering solution–one that can differentiate between good and bad YouTube content or social networking tools.

Lightspeed Technologies designs audio systems that can help increase student achievement by amplifying and clarifying the teacher’s voice. Lightspeed’s audio systems use infrared technology, are easy to use, and provide exceptional quality at competitive prices, the company said.

Pearson School Systems announced its PearsonContinuity.com web site, offering print and online resources for students, parents, and teachers to continue the learning process if attending school is not an option owing to the H1N1 virus or another crisis. The company also highlighted the early successes of Project Tapestry, a web-based learning environment built specifically for K-12 education. The successes of two districts in particular–Plainedge School District in Massapequa, N.Y., and Independence School District in Independence, Mo.–are chronicled in a recent Project Tapestry customer video.

Samsung TechWin demonstrated its L300 data projector for the classroom. The projector’s 3,000 ANSI lumens, XGA resolution, and advanced 3-chip LCD technology deliver high-quality images that are realistic and sharp, with natural and vibrant colors. The device also boasts easy connectivity and extremely quiet operation, Samsung says.

Schooldude.com showcased its integrated suite of online solutions for school IT administrators, which reportedly help more than 860,000 education professionals save time and money by streamlining work orders, managing IT inventory, scheduling facilities, analyzing ed-tech use, and more.

SchoolReach helps administrators deliver personalized phone or text messages to every parent or staff members, or select groups of stakeholders, through an affordable and easy-to-use web-based system that requires no on-site hardware, software, or phone lines. Parent, staff, and student contact information can be uploaded or automatically refreshed daily through the company’s universal Data Integrator module. Once contact lists are established, three simple steps are reportedly all it takes to launch a broadcast: Create a message; select the recipients; then launch.

Skyward launched a school decision-support tool that offers a centralized, customizable data dashboard. Users can customize the widgets they’d like to see and arrange the screens in ways that suit them. At the end of 2009, Skyward also plans to begin a revenue-sharing program with school districts, in which local or national businesses can advertise within the dashboard, with a percentage of the money going to the district. The vendors will work directly with Skyward, letting the company know which district(s) they would like to advertise to.

SmoothWall is an open-source project to create a Linux-based internet firewall device from a redundant PC. SmoothWall Express is the free firewall that has resulted, and it includes its own security-hardened GNU/Linux operating system and an easy-to-use web interface. SmoothWall Limited provides resources and funding for the SmoothWall Open Source Project. As the commercial arm of SmoothWall, it offers an affordable range of supported commercial applications to schools, enterprise networks, and small businesses.

Spectrum Industries, a school and office furniture supply company, offers furniture for computer labs, multi-use classrooms, laptop implementations, libraries, video conferencing, instructional centers, and offices. All of the furniture is made in Wisconsin.

In January, Weekly Reader will introduce Weekly Reader Connect, a multimedia reading-comprehension program that aims to combine high-interest, real-world nonfiction content, research-based lessons, and interactive activities. The online reading program for first through sixth graders requires no additional software and will deliver dozens of "themed units" throughout the school year, with a focus on current events in grades 3-6. Weekly Reader Connect will presents short, multi-leveled content enriched with interactive multimedia, including brief videos, narrated slide shows, topical audio clips, animated shorts, and pop-up dictionaries.

Xirrus offers a wireless solution that provides more than enough bandwidth, security, and control to replace switched Ethernet to the desktop as the primary network connection for a school, the company says. Xirrus’ Wi-Fi Array integrates four, eight, 12, 16, or 24 802.11abg+n radios and a high-gain directional antenna system into a single device, along with an on-board, multi-gigabit switch, Wi-Fi controller, firewall, dedicated threat sensor, and an embedded spectrum analyzer–resulting in a solution that reportedly uses 75 percent fewer devices, cabling, switch ports, power, space, and installation time compared with any other networking solution. Xirrus says it provides the network connection for a number of universities and school districts, including the Plano Independent School District in Texas and William Woods University in Fulton, Mo.

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