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|by Kathie Felix, News/Reviews Editor|
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Web-Based Education Commission Findings
Calling for "an immediate national focus to fulfill the Internet's promise to help transform learning and improve achievement," the Web-Based Education Commission released its final report to Congress on December 19, 2000. The Commission report—titled "The Power of the Internet for Learning: Moving from Promise to Practice"—has been characterized as the most comprehensive analysis of education and the Internet ever undertaken. Among its many findings, the document points out that while progress is being made, the deployment of technology at the school level falls significantly short in comparison to U.S. industry. On average, companies spend as much as $5,500 in technology and support per worker, but the typical school spends no more than $200 on technology per student. The 16-member Web-Based Education Commission was established by Congress to develop recommendations for policy geared toward maximizing the educational promise of the Internet for pre-K, elementary, middle, secondary, and post-secondary education. The Commission report is available online in its entirety. (For a related feature story, see page 16.) The Web-Based Education Commission, 202/219-7045 or http://www.webcommission.org/.
Safeguarding the Wired Schoolhouse
The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has launched an initiative designed to help school leaders understand their technological options for managing the content that students access over the Internet. The CoSN Safeguarding the Wired Schoolhouse project includes a briefing paper that examines school district options for providing appropriate Internet access and content management. The white paper lists a variety of approaches that schools can take in managing access to the Internet and includes resources for implementation or additional study, such as acceptable use policies and permission slips, safety education and guidelines, monitoring tools, and filtering devices. A companion Web site [http://www.safewiredschools.org/] provides online access to related information. CoSN, 202/466-6296 or http://www.cosn.org/.
New on the Net
Five school districts are participating in a pilot program designed to build virtual communities to increase parent and community involvement in online decision-making. The program, sponsored by the National School Boards Foundation and the AOL Foundation, is titled Xchange: Strengthening Schools Through Board Discussions. The districts selected for the project include Blue Valley USD 229 in Overland Park, Kansas; Calcasieu Parish School System in Lake Charles, Louisiana; Greendale School District in Greendale, Wisconsin; Pittsburgh Public Schools in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Solon Community Schools in Solon, Iowa. The districts range in size from 1,000 students in three schools to nearly 47,000 students in 97 schools. Each district will have an Xchange Web site that features e-mail, electronic newsletters, polls, and online discussion forums. The five sites will be evaluated to provide blueprints to other schools nationwide. Project success will be measured by conducting community focus groups and collecting visitor counts and user data during the course of the project, which is scheduled to end in Spring 2002. The Xchange program is funded by a $400,000 grant from the AOL Foundation. National School Boards Foundation, 703/838-6722 or http://www.nsba.org/.
Bring Your Own Guide
Connected University, the online professional development program, now offers a Bring Your Own Guide (BYOG) function. The feature allows Connected University subscribers to lead private sections of courses within their own schools or districts using Connected University course content. With this function, schools can build local communities of online learners while integrating online and face-to-face training. Connected University offers a variety of instructor-led, project-centered courses and other resources designed to help teachers improve their classroom application of technology skills and to help administrators understand the latest technologies. Each course includes seminar content, links to pre-researched Web sites, video elements, interactive discussion boards, and enrichment resources. Classroom Connect, 800/638-1639 or http://www.classroom.com/.
Staff Development from NSBA
Staff Development: Technology in an Integrated Curriculum is a 5-week online course from the ITTE: Education Technology Programs Department of the National School Boards Association (NSBA). The course covers building consensus on staff development vocabulary, creating needs assessment tools, exploring real-time and virtual training models, identifying strengths and weaknesses of staff development models, and building a national staff development community of peers. Participants will learn to use online tools to create a virtual community and will create a menu of courses designed to move teachers from productivity to integration, based on needs assessment and modifications resulting from the use of appropriate evaluation tools. The course runs from March 6 April 10, 2001. The tuition fee is $185. NSBA, 703/838-NSBA or http://www.nsba.org/itte/info.html/.
The newest version of the Mandarin M3 Library Automation System allows users to link to articles and Internet sites found in SIRS Knowledge Source. With the update, library patrons and staff can search a library collection and SIRS databases individually or simultaneously from the M3 OPAC. Searches can be performed by keyword, title, or author in a library collection and the selected SIRS databases. Search results include library resources, database articles, and Web sites. SIRS articles and SIRS NetSelect Web sites can be accessed without the addition of new records to the library database. SIRS Mandarin, Inc., 800/232-SIRS or http://www.sirs.com/.
New National Archives Study Unit
"The United States at War: 1944," a study unit examining America's role in pivotal events at the end of World War II, can now be accessed in the National Archives Documents collection of the SIRS Government Reporter online reference database. The National Archives Documents are a collection of visual resources from the holdings of the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) highlighting major themes throughout U.S. history. The documents include reproductions of primary sources such as charts, photographs, letters, drawings, and posters that illustrate key issues and the prevailing public attitudes of a particular period. Each unit is organized thematically and includes a brief historical essay to put the documents in context. "The United States at War: 1944" unit also is available on the CD-ROM version of SIRS Government Reporter. SIRS, 800/232-SIRS or http://www.sirs.com/.
Technology Resources Online Library
The International Conference on Technology and Education (ICTE) has launched an online reference library of papers presented at ICTE international conferences. Each conference includes 200-300 professional papers focused on one of eight to 10 conference themes. The first papers online were presented at ICTE Tampa 1999; presentations will be posted online at the rate of 10 to 25 papers per week. Papers from ICTE South Africa 2000 will be online in late summer 2001; papers from ICTE Tallahassee 2001 will be added to the online library in the fall of 2001. Access to the materials will be free of charge. After an initial introductory period, however, library users will be asked to register to provide a measure of library access. Registration information will remain exclusive to ICTE and will not be shared with any other organization. ICTE, 972/641-0504 or http://www.icte.org/.
Filtering Info Online
Filtering specialist N2H2 has launched FilteringInfo.org [http://www.FilteringInfo.org/], a Web site designed to provide information and resources on how to comply with federally mandated filtering legislation, ways to receive funding, and where to go with filtering questions. The site is divided into five sections: About Filtering, Compliance, Resources, Funding, and Staying Informed. The site also includes a downloadable 20-page document containing the relevant sections of H.R. 4577, the congressional legislation that establishes the filtering requirements for K-12 schools and libraries that provide Internet access and receive certain types of federal funding. N2H2, 800/971-2622 or http://www.n2h2.com/.
LeapTrack, an adjunct to the notebook-sized LeapPad electronic learning tool (reviewed this issue on page 67), offers a supplementary assessment and instructional management system correlated to state standards for K-5 students. The system provides student assessment tests to be given on the LeapPad, saves test results to a SmartCore cartridge, and uploads the information to the Instructional Management System on the LeapTrack Web site. Test results and prescriptive activity reports can be downloaded, printed, and stored—providing immediate results. A Home Connection option allows teachers, administrators, and parents to view test results from any location. LeapFrog SchoolHouse, 800/883-7430 or http://www.LeapFrogSchoolHouse.com/.
Web Broadcasting to Teachers
Scholastic's Teacher Radio, a half-hour, magazine-style program, airs Monday through Thursday on the Internet at http://www.scholastic.com/teacherradio/. Each program focuses on topics of interest to teachers, including interviews with authors and education experts, advice and inspiring stories from fellow teachers, humor from the classroom, news about education, and reviews of books and educational software. The program also features audio segments that can be shared with students, such as book readings and authors discussing writing. Teacher-listeners can contribute personal and inspirational commentaries, teaching tips, and stories from the classroom by e-mail [firstname.lastname@example.org] or the program's toll-free phone number [866/370-7720]. Scholastic, http://www.scholastic.com/.
Encarta Class Server
The Microsoft Encarta Class Server, a K-12 curriculum management platform, allows teachers to manage five teaching areas online: curriculum standards, lesson plans, content, assignment, and assessment. Educators can locate, manipulate, and create core curriculum materials using the Web-based environment. School assignments can be organized by class or due date, and students can complete and turn in assignments online. Parents can access their child's assignments page for information on upcoming homework, graded projects, and teacher comments. Among the major textbook and education content providers involved in the project are Holt, Rinehart and Winston; Times Learning Systems Private Ltd.; Plato Learning, Inc.; Barrett Kendall Publishing; and The McGraw-Hill companies. The platform is based on the Windows 2000 server operating system. Microsoft, http://www.microsoft.com/education/.
McGraw-Hill Learning Network
The McGraw-Hill Learning Network [http://www.mhln.com] provides interactive e-textbooks, management tools, and communication services to educators, students, and parents. Also available are online interactive instruction tied to McGraw-Hill education curriculum and online assessment services in the form of standardized general achievement and diagnostic tests from CTB/McGraw-Hill. The network's online tools include an interactive lesson planner, Web-based test generator, online activity engines, report writer's assistant, teacher and administration grade book, school Web site builder, and an online store. The e-textbooks feature the full content of the printed texts as well as a variety of multimedia elements, including movies, audio links, and other teacher resource materials. Six science e-texts, covering the middle and high school grades, are currently available. McGraw-Hill Education, http://www.mcgraw-hill.com/.
Lands and Peoples on the Web
Lands and Peoples Online, a new specialty add-on to Grolier database products, provides 330 interactive, continually updated articles that link to full-color illustrations of 850 maps, 270 flags, and 500 photos; multimedia presentations; 3,000 internal article-to-article links; 2,500 external Web links; and streamlined navigation with search and browse options. The material, based on the publisher's six-volume print set, includes new online features: Global News Desk, Focus: North America,Electronic Atlas, Cultural Cross, Passport to Fun, L&P Almanac, Internet Index, and a Teacher's Guide. A 1-year subscription includes access from all machines in a school building and remote access for school users. Pricing varies, based on state pricing plans. Subscriptions begin at $140 per year for the Lands and Peoples Online add-on. Users also must subscribe to two core Grolier databases such as the Encyclopedia Americana, Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, or the New Book of Knowledge Online. Pricing for the two core database subscriptions begins at $335 per year. Grolier Online, 888/326-6546 or http://go.grolier.com/.
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