News and Trends(10)

from Technology & Learning

Bucks for Brains

A team of students from the University of Chile are receiving $30,000 for winning AMD's first annual "Connecting the World" contest for GOTA, an Internet connectivity solution that water utility companies can commercialize for rural populations. Receiving the same cash award, second place winners from the Brazilian university UnicenP have proposed E-Cip, an Internet access terminal utilizing wireless technology to connect to television sets with no need for a computer monitor. AMD, which has ongoing efforts to enable 50 percent of the world's population Internet access by 2015 (, decided to focus the initial contest on the high-growth nations of Latin America, but it plans to expand the challenge each year toward the end of "accelerating the inclusion process."

"This contest is about understanding needs — from small villages to big cities — and how we can help," says Billy Edwards, AMD chief innovation officer. "Our aim is to get folks to engage in innovation, to encourage them to try stuff."

— Susan McLester

ASPs by Any Other Name

Pop quiz: What does SaaS stand for? If you guessed "software as a service," you'd be right. in the late '90s by application service providers, or ASPs, SaaS lets organizations download apps over the Internet on a subscription or pay-as-you-go basis. One SaaS player in the market, Untangle (, hopes to entice education users with its suite of network security applications that block social networking sites, vanquish spam, and more. For schools using apps that require 10 users or less — or in the case of a lab scenario, 10 computers or less — the software is gratis. "Once it's set up, there's minimal management on a daily basis," says Untangle sales manager Rick Miritz, who is a former high school assistant principal.

— Amy Poftak

Virtual Learning Under the Microscope

Colorado's Office of the State Auditor recently released a report taking the state's virtual schools to task. Among the complaints: online students have higher dropout rates and perform much worse on state exams than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. (In 2004-2005, for example, 26 percent of online students dropped out, compared to 4 percent of students statewide.) The audit also identified significant lapses in oversight, from employing unlicensed teachers to using public funds for private religious education.

Will Colorado's audit create a backlash? Not if Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL) has anything to do with it. "It's important to balance regulation with ensuring students access to 21st century learning," she says. "Right now we're not collecting enough data...Is the school evaluating students to see if they're ready for online? Does it have to do with student support? Are teachers not trained?"

This spring NACOL plans to release a series of reports that offer quality guidelines for online schools, including best practices for management, operations, and oversight (

10 Tips for Tomorrow's Leaders

The annual NetDay Speak Up polls students, educators, and parents on a range of education topics toward better preparing kids for leadership positions in a global economy. The organization has recently reported on the top 10 strategies educators from 100 schools have shared for involving students in decision making. They are:

  • Create a student technical support and mentoring group
  • Invite select students to join an advisory group
  • Post a question on a discussion forum
  • Start a computer club to research appropriate software
  • Tap student talents and opinions to redesign school Web sites
  • Arrange for students to meet with elected officials
  • Ask students about technology practices and curriculum
  • Organize student focus groups to test ideas
  • Ask a student group to raise awareness about Internet safety
  • Have every student complete a Speak Up Survey

To participate in NetDay Speak Up, visit

Stop Sitting Quietly

Obesity among the young is a national epidemic according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 15 percent of children in the United States are already overweight, and the problem continues to grow. It is anticipated that half the children in America are likely to have weight problems during their lifetimes.

"Kids will stand at a video arcade; why not at a computerized learning center?" — Mayo Clinic child researcher Lorraine Lanningham-Foster, PhD.

Not too far down the line we may be looking at kids earning detention for sitting quietly at their desks. Citing the relationship between movement and healthy weight, Mayo Clinic ( obesity researchers are experimenting with a classroom of the future where kids stand and move around rather than sit at desks to learn. In partnership with the Rochester Athletic Club of Rochester, New York, and Apple Computer, the Mayo team will begin collecting data on 4th and 5th graders in March 2007. Students will wear Posture and Activity Detectors (PADs) on their legs to measure time spent standing or walking and use a range of innovative technology-based tools, including podcasting; "Learn 'n Move" bays; vertical magnetic work spaces that double as projection screens; personalized whiteboards; and standing desks.

"We are seeing a generation that is increasingly sedentary and inactive," says Greg Lappin, general manager of the Rochester Athletic Club, site of the experiment. "We're excited about playing a role in something that could help turn around this national problem."

If the project shows a successful tie-in between physical activity and health, the Rochester Public Schools may be the first district in the nation to institutionalize such an environment in an elementary setting, says superintendent Jerry Williams.

— SM


The grade range for ETS Criterion 6.2 was listed incorrectly in the November 2006 issue. The correct grade range is 4-12.

PBS TeacherLine was listed in the November 2006 issue as being free. Courses vary in price; see for details.