Trend Watch(10)

Q. Where's the Remote?A. On a server somewhere managing "hosted" software for Sprint, classroom desktops for Apple and NetSupport School, IT supervision for Gateway, and more. Watch for the rise of remote management in schools as we continue to lack adequate personnel and eyes in the backs of our heads.

A New Drill
The catch phrase at Co-nect these days is "data-driven professional development." The company is implementing a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education by helping educators in 14 districts examine hard data to analyze their success in helping students achieve. CEO Andrew Skoler makes a good point: We've long known customized, or differentiated, instruction works well for students, so why shouldn't we apply it to teachers as well?

Better Together
Eric Svetcov, a veteran technology director and our correspondent in the field, informs us he encountered several NECC attendees from private schools and small districts who are forming "buying consortiums" in order to nab better deals from software and hardware vendors. The appeal is simple: schools get lower prices, better service, and are able to stretch their IT dollars further. And companies win two ways: larger projects and a single sale to close, rather than 20.

Editor's Choice: Best of Show
Standing out among the countless products being showcased at the conference were two tools possessing serious cool factor:

  • The first, a USB key called Migo, has been much ballyhooed by the general press for over a year and is now making its way into the K-12 market. Essentially it frees users to carry their desktop environment wherever they go, plugging into any Windows machine to securely access Microsoft Outlook e-mail, desktop files, and personal settings. Powerhouse Technologies Group, which makes the device, sees it as a cost-effective (the 256MB version sells for $199.95) alternative to laptop programs. Call it a "virtual PC" for students and educators.
  • The antithesis of drill-and-kill, Muzzy Lane's Making History software lets students assume the roles of world leaders interacting with one another during defining periods in history. The first simulation, set in World War II, immerses students in historically accurate scenarios, complete with diplomatic, economic, social, and military advisors, while the program's artificial intelligence engine allows educators to alter parameters (e.g., a country's resources). A second simulation, set during the American Revolution, is due next year.

What's Your Opinion?

Are simulations and other game-like applications poised to make a comeback in education? Click here and let us know what you think. We'll report your responses on Back Page.