National STEM program increases reach

The Educate to Innovate program is expanding its partnerships.
The Educate to Innovate program is expanding its partnerships.

President Barack Obama on Jan. 6 announced the expansion of the Educate to Innovate program he launched last November, including the creation of several new partnerships to help attract, develop, reward, and retain outstanding STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teachers.

These partnerships build upon initiatives already announced by Obama Nov. 23, and include programs involving major companies, universities, foundations, nonprofit organizations and government agencies. (See “Obama launches new STEM initiatives.”)

“Several new public-private partnerships are going to offer additional training to more than 100,000 teachers and prepare more than 10,000 new teachers in the next five years alone,” Obama said.…Read More

Top 10 ed-tech stories of 2009: No. 4

Stimulus funds are flowing to educational technology programs.
Stimulus funds are flowing to educational technology programs.

The federal stimulus package approved by Congress in February included $650 million designated specifically for education technology. That doesn’t include billions more for other programs, such as Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which could be used for school technology as well. All told, nearly $106 billion in stimulus dollars went to education.

The money came at a good time for schools, many of which had cut ed-tech spending as the economy tanked. School leaders were encouraged to use the stimulus funding to make one-time investments that could have lasting effects, such as using IDEA money to buy assistive technology (AT) devices for students, training students and staff members to use AT devices, and improving their data collection and reporting abilities.

The infusion of more federal money for education technology was welcomed by ed-tech advocacy groups, which had seen annual funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program, the largest federal school technology initiative, dwindle during President Bush’s second term–from a high-water mark of $696 million in the 2004 fiscal year to $267 million in FY 2009.…Read More

Schools face tough economic road ahead

New legislation could provide money to save education jobs.
New legislation could provide money to save education jobs.

While some economists point to signs that the nation’s economy is improving, others say the U.S. faces a much slower climb out of the recession–a scenario that will have a huge effect on public education in the coming years.

Though the Dow recently broke 10,000 to hit its highest level for the first time in a year, the national unemployment rate, at 10 percent, is the highest it has been since 1983.

States are still waiting to hit bottom and are not likely to do so for another year or two–and education will feel the financial impact for some time after that, said Richard Sims, the chief economist for the National Education Association (NEA), at the Software and Information Industry Association’s Ed-Tech Business Forum on Dec. 1.…Read More

Universities play role in broadband expansion

A New Mexico broadband initiative will give broadband access to 3,000 homes and 1,000 businesses.
A New Mexico broadband initiative will give broadband access to 3,000 homes and 1,000 businesses.

Colleges and universities will help bring broadband internet to underserved schools, businesses, and neighborhoods after Vice President Joe Biden announced the first round of federal stimulus funds to expand high-speed web access on Dec. 17.

Eighteen projects nationwide, funded by $182 million in stimulus dollars, will build long-awaited fiber-optic networks in rural areas not served by high-bandwidth web connections in larger nearby cities.

The University of Maine is among the campuses involved in the broadband expansion program. Maine will partner with Biddleford Internet Corp.—along with several other companies—to build three fiber optic rings across 1,100 miles of rural area with $25.4 million in funding.…Read More

Duncan: Schools ‘need to be more creative’

Education Secretary Arne Duncan took questions from students.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan took questions from students.

Education leaders in the United States must work to close the digital divide and ensure that all students have access to top-notch technology, while at the same time using technology not just for technology’s sake, but as a game-changing learning tool, said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a national town hall meeting for students on Dec. 15.

During the town hall, which was a special edition of the Education Department’s (ED’s) television news program for parents, Duncan said that using technology the way today’s students use it is key to making an impact.

“We need to be much more creative and innovative in how we do things,” Duncan said. For instance, students today use cell phones and PDAs on a regular basis, he said, so coming up with creative ways to deliver content and curriculum involving technologies that students like to use is one way to grab students’ attention.…Read More

Racist group targets school newspapers

At least two high school newspapers unknowingly ran an advertisement from a "white resistance" web site in November.
At least two high school newspapers unknowingly ran an advertisement from a "white resistance" web site in November.

School newspaper advisers, beware: A free music-downloading web site that has placed advertisements with at least two high school newspapers is actually a vehicle for violent hate speech and “white resistance” information.

Last month, two high school newspapers unknowingly ran an advertisement from an organization called Victory Forever, which states its purpose is to “disseminate white resistance music as widely as possible around the world.” The incidents have angered some community members and have left educators wondering what they can do if they are victimized by false or misleading ads.

The group ran an ad in HiLite, the student newspaper at Indiana’s Carmel High School, promoting free music downloads, but when readers visited the web site, they found anti-Semitic and racially charged information claiming that whites are in danger.…Read More

Comcast, NBC deal to test net neutrality

Analysts say Comcast Corp. likely will have to accept substantial conditions if the cable TV provider wants to win regulatory approval for control of NBC Universal’s broadcast network, cable channels, and movie studios in a $13.75 billion mega-deal that is sure to test "net neutrality," the idea that broadband providers should not be able to discriminate against certain types of internet traffic flowing over their lines.

Although federal regulators probably won’t block a deal outright on anticompetitive grounds, they could prohibit Comcast, for instance, from denying rival subscription-TV services access to NBC channels and other popular programming. And they could prohibit the cable giant from blocking or delaying the streaming of content from other networks over its broadband pipeline.

Under a deal expected to be announced Dec. 3, Comcast would control the Peacock network and about two dozen cable channels such as Bravo, CNBC, The Weather Channel, and SyFy, along with the cable lines to roughly a quarter of all U.S. households that pay for TV.…Read More

Schools protest Kindle’s setup for the blind


Amazon’s Kindle electronic book reader can read books aloud, but if you’re blind it can be difficult to turn that function on without help. Now, two universities say they will avoid the device until Amazon changes the setup.

The National Federation of the Blind planned to announce Nov. 11 that the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Syracuse University won’t consider big rollouts of the electronic reading device unless Amazon makes it more accessible to visually impaired students.…Read More

Student lending landscape in flux

College administrators face a student lending landscape in upheaval at a time when students are borrowing more money than ever to pay for college. 

The Obama administration wants to end federal subsidies for private student loans, forcing colleges to shift to a direct-lending model from the government–and the House of Representatives passed legislation in September to make that happen. But the Senate has yet to take up the bill, and Capitol Hill staffers say that’s not likely to happen until after lawmakers resolve the health-care debate.

Now, the Education Department (ED) is trying to force the issue. Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged colleges and universities last month to prepare to use the government’s Direct Loan Program for the next school year. But college financial aid directors are split in their support for the switch, which could require the use of new software and training.…Read More

FCC proposes web-safety education rules

Child at home computerSchools and libraries receiving federal e-Rate funding would have to submit proof that they have implemented internet safety education programs along with their e-Rate applications, according to a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Nov. 5.

When the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act passed in Congress late last year, it included a provision requiring schools to educate their students about safe and appropriate online behavior (see “Schools soon required to teach web safety“), but lawmakers issued no immediate guidance to enforce that provision.

According to the FCC’s notice, the public will have 30 days to comment on the proposed e-Rate changes, with an additional period for submitting responses to follow.…Read More