- Marylandâ€™s Prince Georgeâ€™s County school district will spend $4.1 million to implement a new centralized student information system, giving administrators, teachers and parents secure, web-based access to student information.
- As both federal and state funders cut back on dedicated technology funding, school districts find themselves struggling to support their existing programs and worried about the future. Read about how this is playing out in Wisconsin.
- In Chicago each public schools has its own budget for purchasing and supporting its own computers. And that has led to some massive problems, as the schools struggle to find their way in unfamiliar territory. Read how Chicagoâ€™s CTO is helping out with a oneâ€“stop support service.
- NetDay has released Visions 2020.2: Student Views on Transforming Education and Training Through Advanced Technologies, a report that draws on studentsâ€™ vision of technology for learning. Read the report to learn about the most common future themes students envisioned.
MD District Implements SIS
Marylandâ€™s Prince Georgeâ€™s County Public School district has signed on to implement a new student information system, with a $41 million price tag. It will take two years before the system is fully implemented at which point any parent will be able to go online and check their child's daily attendance, grades, discipline problems and class schedules. As the system is installed over the next two years, it will function on a limited basis. The Prince Georgeâ€™s district serves roughly 140,000 students and much of its record keeping and student tracking has required gathering information manually from various departments whose computer systems do not communicate. Centralization of student information will make it easier for the district to respond to the reporting demands of No Child Left Behind. The school system has been preparing for the transition to one integrated system for several years. Plans call for all teachers to have laptops, making it easy for them to enter student information directly from their classrooms. Middle and high school teachers received the computers over the summer and elementary school teachers will receive them next summer.
Paying the Piper
Schools in Wisconsin, like those in many other states, are finding it harder to come up with the money to support their technology programs. The federal government is scaling back its support of dedicated technology funding, noting that funds from many other sources can be used to support technology initiatives. Some states are following suit. Two years ago, Wisconsin, eliminated the state-supported block grant program that had disbursed more than $350 million for school technology and wiring. Long warned about the need to incorporate technology costs — hardware replacement, software licenses, personnel and professional development — into the regular operating budget, not everyone listened. Now, faced with diminished external support, school districts are asking hard questions and having to decide where technology stands on their priorities lists. At some districts, faced with limited budgets, technology has taken a hit. The Mequon-Thiensville School District has reduced its non-personnel technology budget by 46% over the last four years. In the Waukesha School District, where voters agreed in 2001 to a tax increase that would spend $2.5 million more yearly on technology, the School Board approved a measure this spring to reduce the number of technology resource teachers serving the district by half for this school year. But in the Kewaskum School District, voters recently approved a referendum measure to spend $262,000 a year on technology over the next five years. In the long run, however, districts may have to begin to think outside the box if they really want to maintain technology as a central tool for student learning.
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Calling Support Central
Chicago Public School CTO Robert Runcie is responsible for managing the network that connects the cityâ€™s more than 600 public schools. But school reform has put control of the computers that are connected to that network in the hands of the local schools. Each school gets its own budget for purchasing and supporting its own computers. And that has led to some massive problems, as the schools struggle to find their way in unfamiliar territory. Not only are technology resources distributed very unevenly, schools often pay more for both equipment and maintenance than they need to or than a neighboring school is spending for the same services. To gain some control and help provide the schools with more for their money, Runcie launched Tech-XL, an operation complete with sales, accounting and customer service departments, as well as a slate of subcontractors. Tech XL is optional. Schools can purchase the service the same way they currently purchase maintenance. For $10 a month per computer, schools buy unlimited technical support, maintenance, configuration and even disposal of old computers. Rather than dealing with multiple vendors, schools have one point of contact for all their computer problems. They also get access to a computer leasing program that allows them to stretch their hardware dollars. Since its February launch, some 260 schools have signed up. The 200 technicians on the Tech XL team are supporting about 30,000 computers. Runcie believes that if TechXL delivers as promised, the rest of the schools will join in before too long.
Source: Chicago Tribune
Student Voices, Student Visions
NetDay has released Visions 2020.2: Student Views on Transforming Education and Training Through Advanced Technologies, a report developed in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Education and Commerce. As part of its annual Speak Up Day, in 2004 NetDay asked what students would like to see invented that will help kids learn in the future. More than 55,000 students answered this question. When analyzed, responses grouped around four common themes. According to the report students envision a world in which access to technology and information is ubiquitous and highly interactive â€œEvery student would use a small, handheld wireless computer that is voice activated. The computer would offer high-speed access to a kid friendly Internet, populated with websites that are safe, designed specifically for students, with no pop-up ads. Using this device students would complete most of their in school work and homework, as well as take online classes. Students would use the small computer to play mathematics-learning games and read interactive e-textbooks. In completing their school work, students would work closely and routinely with an intelligent digital tutor, and tap a knowledge utility to obtain factual answers to questions they pose.â€