T&L News(154)

Week of: November 10, 2008

  • National Distance Learning Week, November 10 -14
    How will you celebrate National Distance Learning Week, held by The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA)? Already a multi-billion dollar industry, distance learning is the fastest growing segment of the education market. According to USDLA and its research, the following trends are in full swing:
  • WHAT'S NEW ONLINE
    Tech Skills Assessment (http://www.atomiclearning.com)
    Price: $99; For a limited time, Atomic Learning is offering schools and districts that purchase the Technology Skills Collection free access the new Tech Skills Assessment FREE for life. Valid on subscriptions purchased before February 15, 2009.
    Description: Allows schools and districts to assess student technology comprehension based on ISTE NETS-S 2007. Includes a wide range of reporting features. Coming late November 2008
  • Tech Forum Southwest ReportTech Forum SW in Austin on November 7 was another exciting day of sharing the energy, passion, and ideas that happen when you bring together tech integrators at all levels. I had the pleasure of moderating the session, "Open Source Goes to School," with Miguel Guhlin, director of ITS at San Antonio, TX, Michael Gras, Chief of Tech and Scott Floyd, IT, of White Oak ISD. The session was an eye-opener for school's readiness for open source.
  • Tech Forum Southwest ReportTech Forum SW in Austin on November 7 was another exciting day of sharing the energy, passion, and ideas that happen when you bring together tech integrators at all levels. I had the pleasure of moderating the session, "Open Source Goes to School," with Miguel Guhlin, director of ITS at San Antonio, TX, Michael Gras, Chief of Tech and Scott Floyd, IT, of White Oak ISD. The session was an eye-opener for school's readiness for open source.
  • Linux Creeping into Windows Profits
    According to a recent article in Slashdot Microsoft is starting to feel the effects of the growing Linux-based netbooks movement.

  • 90% fully online students aged 25 or older, 20% of adult students are online
  • Geography matters in online higher education and will matter more in future.
  • 1.5 million 100% online students, representing approximately 8.5% of all students at US degree-granting, Title IV eligible schools, and 20% of adult students
  • Certain 100% online schools are strategically securing licensure in multiple states.
  • Student preference for 100% online delivery suggests strong market growth potential.

Throughout the week, USDLA members will hold free webinars, sponsored by Elluminate, Inc., and Wimba, Inc., covering a range of distance learning topics including PreK-12 and home schooling, corporate, military and government, telehealth and future trends. A detailed schedule is online at: www.ndlw.org.

WHAT'S NEW ONLINE

Tech Skills Assessment
Price: $99; For a limited time, Atomic Learning is offering schools and districts that purchase the Technology Skills Collection free access the new Tech Skills Assessment FREE for life. Valid on subscriptions purchased before February 15, 2009.
Description: Allows schools and districts to assess student technology comprehension based on ISTE NETS-S 2007. Includes a wide range of reporting features. Coming late November 2008.

EXCEED/RTI
Description: Manages and measures day-to-day activities, meetings, research -based interventions, and outcomes used to help all students achieve academic success.

Netop 6.0
Price: 30-day free trial on Web site
Description: Provides enhanced capabilities to support teachers using technology for planning, teaching, and evaluation. With this newest upgrade, teachers can more easily create and edit lessons outside of the classroom.

Tech Forum Southwest Report

Austin, TX
November 7, 2008
By T&L Managing Editor Christine Weiser

Tech Forum SW in Austin was another exciting day of sharing the energy, passion, and ideas that happen when you bring together tech integrators at all levels. The event began with an inspiring keynote from Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, who discussed how technology can unleash the passion of the 21st century learner—where school is just one node in a 2.0 world where learning opportunities exist everywhere.

I had the pleasure of moderating the session, "Open Source Goes to School," with Miguel Guhlin, director of ITS at San Antonio, TX, Michael Gras, Chief of Tech and Scott Floyd, IT, of White Oak ISD.

Before I introduced our speakers, I asked the audience how many were using open source. Two tentative hands rose, both said their schools were in the exploratory phases of investigating open source.

Miguel began with a reference to Dr. Chris Moersch's HEAT theory HEAT theory (Higher order thinking; Engaged learning, Authentic learning; Technology use), and explained that open source can be a free solution that schools can use to achieve this goal.

He admitted that integrated learning systems, what many schools typically use for drill-n-practice/tutorial purposes, won't work with a Linux OS, however, if these tools are online, they are options (such as PLATO and Accelerated Reader that have Web-based versions). Miguel also said that training is an important part of effective open-source integration. (Although this is true of paid programs as well.) Miguel told the story about a school that received donated computers. Once that school starts adding up all of the software that needs to be uploaded onto that donated computer, the gift began to seem less generous.

Miguel suggests that a school could save quite a bit of money if they selectively replaced some of the commercial applications with free software, such as MS Word with Open Office. The resulting savings from replacing some applications could be as much as $1.1 million, the equivalent of a large urban school district's state technology allotment. Miguel asks, what could you do with $1.1 million?

The speakers offered a helpful list of open-source programs that they are using effectively in their schools:

Audacity: A free, open source software for recording and editing sounds in Linux, Mac OS X , and other operating systems.

Joomla: the district used this for their Web site. Scott said they spent $38, found a template that was quickly approved by the superintendent, and for just $8/month they have a user-friendly Web site with quality support.

osTube: this open source YouTube lets the district not only upload videos, but photos, and documents to let students share all kinds of resources. It does require a dedicated server, but the school has been glad for the opportunity to share work with family and community. Their goal is to have kids post their eportfolios here, so when he sits down with a college admissions person, they have one link to show that college or that potential employer all of his vast work.

WordPress mu: This blogging tool can be loaded anywhere; users can set up their own server for a $7/mt account that includes Internet hosting. The school hosts all kinds of blogs, including a grant site that shows grantors how the school is using the grants, and the differences those grants made.

Moodle: This popular open source content management system lets teachers share lessons and courses.

OpenOffice 3.0: Scott called the latest release "awesome." For example, a user can click one button to convert a file to pdf or link to Joomla to the content to the school site.

Firefox: Scott recommended this as a good web browser great for Twitter, delicious tags—and the browser does not eat up as much bandwidth.

Zooomr.com: created by a 17-yr old using free open source tools (competes with flickr).

Kidpub.org: A place where kids can practice and publish their learning.

Michael Gras spoke about his use of Moodle, which not only saved valuable network space at his district, but allowed Texas schools to establish the Supernet, a consortium of Moodle-based online coursework that reaches 25 school districts.

He warned the audience: "The It director is your enemy." He said he knows this because he is one. IT Directors spend many hours and many dollars keeping the network and data secure, Michael said. He pointed out that even secure networks get breached, but felt that using open-source would not equal anarchy in schools. He pointed out that learning can't stop in the classroom, and it requires the kind of access that open source allows. It needs to be part of the cloud that includes parents, teachers, students, and the community.

Open source seems like an obvious choice for cash-strapped schools, and yet I still sensed some resistance in the room. Security seemed to be the biggest concern, and some had had some negative open source experience when they had tried it years ago when open source was still a clunky newborn. I thought about what Sheryl had said in her keynote: "How do you teach your kids with the end in mind when you don't know what the end will be?" That is certainly our challenge as educators.

For a sneak peek into other Tech Forum conversations, from Web 2.0 to great ESL programs to video snapshots of fascinating roundtable discussions, click HERE.

Linux Creeping into Windows Profits

According to a recent article in Slashdot Microsoft is starting to feel the effects of the growing Linux-based netbooks movement. Analysts at Bloomberg report, "The devices, which usually cost less than $500, are the fastest-growing segment of the personal-computer industry—a trend that's eating into Microsoft's revenue. Windows sales fell short of forecasts last quarter and the company cut growth projections for the year, citing the lower revenue it gets from netbooks." Equipping Linux on a computer costs about $5, compared with $40 to $50 for XP and about $100 for Vista, according to estimates by Jenny Lai, a Taipei-based analyst at CLSA. Read T&L's article comparing popular netbooks HERE.

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