Positive Signs at NECC

Welcome back to the 2004-2005 school year. In a slightly new take on our usual August "Back-to-School Product Guide," we've expanded coverage this fall to include offerings from hardware companies, as well as software and Web resources. Trends noted in the introduction to the guide include increased options for assessment, new applications for data-driven decision-making, and more.

Last June's NECC conference in New Orleans saw record attendance-an impressive 17,500-plus participants were there to hear The New Yorker's Malcolm Gladwell speak about tipping points, and presentations by U.S. Department of Education's Susan Patrick, Intel CEO Craig Barrett, ed tech guru David Warlick, and numerous other experts. Much of the conference buzz focused on the increasing customization of services for schools by hardware companies, and the promise of tablet computing-stay tuned for more on that in later issues. Perhaps it was the appeal of the music, food, architecture, and other unique French Quarter charms that was responsible for drawing such a record crowd, but any way you slice it, it was a hopeful sign for education. We are moving ahead with integrating technology. NCLB has not squelched innovation. And travel-related anxiety and budget crackdowns appear to be easing up a bit.

T&L editors took advantage of the conference to ask educators what was on their minds. You will see evidence of their responses in upcoming editorial coverage. Many told us that data-how to massage it, analyze it, and tie it directly to increased student achievement-remains paramount for them. This month's Product Spotlight addresses one important aspect of the data challenge-data warehousing. In that piece, writer Todd McIntire details the crucial factors you should know about when selecting the right solution for your district. The accompanying Buyer's Checklist, which you can count on seeing each month in this department, provides a nutshell look at warehousing "must-haves" for the busy reader.

We also conducted an informal poll at NECC on what attendees felt were the top three technology investments for schools. By "investment" we mean a type of product, service, personnel, or time investment. Our November cover feature will report on the editors' final choices, so don't be left out. E-mail us at techlearning_editors@cmp.com with your suggestions. If you are the first one to bring a key investment to our attention, we will credit you in that feature.

Lastly, we look briefly at the election beat in this month's Web Sightings, and in also Amy Poftak's "Quick Take". We hope you'll find these resources useful.