TechLearning News

  • Among the sights and sounds of Microsoft's summer confab for progressive educators: student voices, pedagogical theories, and a whole lot of multitasking. Which of these ideas can you use?
  • Susan Patrick, Director of the Office of Educational Technology, is leaving the U.S. Department of Education to become the president and CEO of the North American Council for Online Learning. Stay tuned to learn about her replacement.
  • The Vail Unified School District will open Arizona's only all-wireless public high school this fall, equipping all 350 students with laptops. Do you think laptop programs are a good idea?
  • Columbia (MO) Public Schools is ready to launch its new student information system this fall, giving teachers the ability to generate student reports they once had to rely on the IT department to produce. Would a robust SIS help you improve instruction?
  • Nashville Pubic Schools is installing global positioning systems on its entire fleet of school buses, enabling real-time tracking. Does your district's transportation system need improvement?

TECHLEARNING NEWS EXCLUSIVE: Editor's Notebook: School of the Future World Summit

Last month, an impressive assemblage of educators and policy wonks from around the globe gathered at Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Washington to discuss secondary education reform. The World Summit offered a lot of food for thought. Among the highlights was the chance to hear what students want from schools today. Four hyper-articulate teenagers representing, an online community that claims 75,000 student members, shared their visions for their ideal learning environment: one-on-one time with their teachers; the ability to manage their own learning; hands-on activities in and out of the classroom; and teachers serving as facilitators, not omniscient lecturers. An audience member from Philadelphia's School of the Future posed this question: "We're in the process of getting the curriculum together and creating a flexible one-to-one learning environment…It's a quantum leap for educators. What can you suggest as professional development activities we can do to help staff become facilitators, not lecturers? We're struggling with this." Some ideas the teens offered: developing leadership training that teachers and students would take in tandem and rolling out professional development conducted by students or recent grads.

Source: Technology & Learning

E Tech Director Leaves US DOE

Susan Patrick, Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, has resigned. In September she will become the president and chief executive officer of the North American Council for Online Learning. NACOL is a is an international K-12 non-profit organization representing the interests of administrators, practitioners, and students involved in online learning in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Patrick joined the Department of Education in October 2002, from a background in higher education and distance learning. In March 2004 she was named Director of the Office of Educational Technology following the departure of John Bailey. Among Patrick's chief accomplishments was the development of the nation's third educational technology plan, "Toward a New Golden Age in American Education: How the Internet, the Law and Today's Students Are Revolutionizing Expectations." Published in January 2005, the National Educational Technology Plan emphasized the growth and importance of online learning in the K-12 landscape. Patrick worked with many of the nation's leading educators, researchers and business executives in developing the ed tech plan, contacts that will serve her well as she leads NACOL's efforts to increase educational opportunities and enhance learning by providing collegial expertise and leadership in K-12 online teaching and learning.


Laptop High School Set To Open

The Vail Unified School District will open Arizona's only all-wireless, all-laptop public high school this fall. Each of the 350 students at Empire High School will receive a laptop to keep for the entire year. As with other laptop programs, parents assume responsibility for the machine or pay $54 for an insurance policy that replaces the laptop if it's stolen or broken. Teachers will develop their daily curriculum around the state standards and use academic online and electronic resources rather than teaching from the standard textbook. The program represents a big investment for the district. The laptops cost $850 each and officials expect enrollment to grow to 750 students. In contrast, a set of textbooks costs $500 to $600, but that investment is spread over the six-year life span of most textbook adoptions. But the district believes that increased technology use will be key to preparing student to pass the state's AIM exam, which is based not on textbook content but state standards. The technology will provide greater flexibility to address the standards in deep and engaging ways. It also will help prepare students for life in the 21st Century.

Source: Arizona Daily Star

New SIS Has Something for Everyone

After more than a year of planning, Columbia (MO) Public Schools is ready to launch its new student information system, replacing an 18-year old system that the district had been using. The new Web-based system will give teachers and administrators instant access to student information. And in light of increased accountability requirements, the number of users will go from 250 to roughly 2,000, with teachers no longer having to wait for an IT professional to generate needed reports. For the first time, all district data will be integrated allowing users to get a complete profile of a student, including archived test data, participation in the meal program, ESL status, and school library information and eliminating redundant data entry. The system will also streamline the process of reporting student information to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Teachers will record some information, such as attendance, in real time. Parents will be able to log on and check daily attendance if they wish. Information about the various ways that parents can use the system will be available when students pick up their schedules and will be distributed in fliers and newsletters. To maintain security, users will have varying levels of access. Teachers can see basic demographic information and academic record for each student in their classes. Only select users can access special education, disciplinary or medical records. The district also hired a company to audit the network's security from inside and outside the system several times a year. The district has allocated $1.8 million for the project.

Source: Columbia Daily Tribune

GPS To Track Nashville School Buses

Nashville Pubic Schools is installing global positioning systems (GPS) on its entire fleet of school buses. The district began installing the technology on 217 buses used to transport special education students in mid-July and hopes to have the technology installed on all 600 buses by September. The units communicate with a global positioning satellite that will track the buses and plot on a screen the location of every bus, the speed it is traveling and its path during the day. The school system hopes to eventually be able to determine when a bus is running behind schedule, when an emergency door opens or when a bus is stopped for more than two minutes at a time. During this first year of operation, the district will be seeking to learn the capabilities of the equipment. While Nashville is leading the way with this installation, districts throughout the country are looking for way to increase the security of their transportation systems. For Nashville, the system will allow transportation officials to better answer parent questions such as whether their child's bus already made a pick-up and where the bus is on the route.

Source: Nashville City Paper