Technology + Online + Industry + Partnerships

Bush to Ed Tech Industry:EETT’s Success Makes It Expendable

The president’s rationale for eliminating funding for a keyprogram is challenged by a SETDA report.

In Brief

BUSH-WHACKED? EETT may
not survive the latest effort to end it.

IF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION has its way, the sole funding supporting the No Child Left Behind Act’s key ed tech component, Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT), will be cut, eliminating a program that is meant to provide funding for deployment and integration of educational technology intoclassroom instruction.

Defending the 2008 budget proposal, the administration states that “schools today offer a greater level of technology infrastructure than just a few years ago, [so] there is no longer a significant need for a state formula grant program targeted specifically on (and limited to) the effective integration of technology into schools and classrooms.”

Coinciding with that pronouncement—or maybe not so coincidentally—was the release of the 2007 National Trends Report from the State Educational Technology Directors Association’s (SETDA). The report, published the same day as the proposed budget, indicates that EETT is increasing student achievement and improving teacher quality.

But the early success of the program, argue EETT advocates, does not mean the work is done. They warn that shutting off such a prominent source of ed tech funding would thwart the president’s own goal of preparing US students to be competitive globally.

Moreover, according to Keith Krueger, the CEO of the Consortium for School Networking, eradicating the program would most hurt underserved communities, where school is often the only place students are exposed to technology. “Proposing to eliminate EETT,” Krueger says, “erects barriers to low-income, minority, and rural students who rely on their schools for the technology and internet access they lack in their homes.”

The SETDA report says the states are doing their part to decrease their reliance on federal funds: “While nationally the program continues to be a primary source of dedicated funding for educational technology, states share that responsibility through both dedicated and optional state funding sources for educational technology.”

This is the third straight year that Bush has sought to eliminate EETT from the annual budget. The past two years, dogged lobbying by education technology professionals from districts nationwide got the program restored.

The program may have been spared the last time, but SETDA shows that EETT’s fourth year was marked by a 28 percent reduction in funds and more stringent guidelines for competitive grants.

The report makes the case that less funding impedes the goals set forth by NCLB, noting that outcomes already have been stunted by the reduction in federal support.

FINDING THEIR VOICE

A PIONEERING GAMING OUTFIT is giving new meaning to the term immersive learning. Second Life, a webbased virtual world that’s becoming increasingly popular in education, will soon feature proximity- based 3-D voice capabilities,according to developer Linden Lab.

The improvement will allow Second Life residents to speak to one another using spatial-awareness algorithms that take distance and direction into account, modifying sounds to provide a more realisticfeelingexperience.

“We believe voice is a transformative technology that will change the way residents communicate, and will lend more immediacy and dynamism to their interaction with others,” says Joe Miller, vice president of platform and technology development at Linden Lab. He adds that the voice feature will allow new ways for teachers to reach students, such as through carrying out lectures in Second Life.

Terry Beaubois, director of the College of Arts and Architecture’s Creative Research Lab at Montana State University, says, “Many of the projects my students and I are working on in Second Life will benefit from voice, as we often work with our hands, designing, building, and creating. Voice will enable us to communicate and collaborate freely, and I’m looking forward to exploring its use.”

Linden Lab says a beta of the new technology will be tried out on 1,000 users, then will be released to all Second Life residents. A full rollout is expected in the second quarter of 2007. It will support Mac OS X and Windows.

:: Industry News

In Brief

TALK IT OUT: A tool to help students discuss problems.

STUDENTS IM SCHOOL OFFICIALS. Benton County School District in Mississippi is launching a new service to help students deal with personal problems, such as threats and bullying. The service, “Talk About It,” an online messaging tool from AnComm, lets students report their problems anonymously to school personnel via theinternet and receive real-time feedback.

The district is using federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools funds for the annual licensing fee.

FREE QUIZ SERVICE AVAILABLE ONLINE. Online learning resource provider ProProfs has launched a new service called ProProfs Quiz School that allows teachers to generate customized quizzes and practice tests online. The new service isavailable free to educators and students.

Additionally, the service provides a library of quizzes, which range from K- 12 education to technology certification, SAT and GRE prep, and general trivia.

Users can also assign keywords to specific quizzes for easy retrieval.

PBS PORTAL OPENS DOOR FOR TEACHERS. PBS has created a new online portal for K-12 education. In development for more than a year, PBS Teachers provides a “front door” to educational services offered by PBS, including TeacherLine, an online professional development center, and the all-new Media Infusion, an education blog that will “showcase ideas for and encourage conversations about using media and technology in the classroom, to be hosted by practicing classroom teachers anded tech experts,” according to PBS.

The site also includes thousands of free lesson plans, classroom activities, local and national educator resources, videos, and other resources.

Features to be added include integration of content with local PBS stations and customization features for educators, such as annotation and shared bookmarks.

COUNCIL OF MN SCHOOLS BUYS VIEWPOINT. The Central Minnesota Educational Research and Developmental Council (CMERDC) has acquired Viewpoint, a data analysis and reporting system for instructional planning, from Tandem Library Group, formerly Sagebrush Books. CMERDC plans to continue developing the tool andto work toward its adoption nationwide.

NYC DOE HIRES IBM TO BUILD SMS. The New York City Department of Education has signed IBM to develop and deploy a new student management system to serve its roughly 1.1 million students and 90,000 teachers. The Achievement Reporting and Innovation System will be designed to measure student performance and progress in real time and provide thatinformation to educators and parents.

According to the terms of the fiveyear, $80 million deal, IBM will deliver software, hardware, consulting, and technology services for the system. The aim, according to the NYC DoE, is to allow educators to adjust curricula to meet individual student needs.

:: Partnerships

VBRICK SYSTEMS TEAMS UP WITH CLEARVUE & SVE. VBrick Systems, a provider of video networking solutions, has partnered with Clearvue & SVE, a division of Discovery Education, to create a digital video package for K-12 schools. The package will include VBrick’s EtherneTV digital video system witha preloaded library of educational programming. The system will also beable to record lectures, deliver webcasts,stream live content, and manage digitalvideo over internet protocol networks.

IN2BOOKS AND EPALS MERGE. In2Books, the nonprofit behind the In2Books program used to boost Washington, DC, students’ reading comprehension, critical thinking, and writing skills, has merged with ePals, known for its school-safe e-mail and collaborative classroom network. The new company, under the ePals name, combines ePals’ online network withIn2Books’ curriculum.

KAPLAN ANNOUNCES ACQUISITION. New York-based education services provider Kaplan has acquired Princeton, NJ-based EduNeering Holdings, a developer of technology-enabled knowledge and education solutions.

The buy bolsters Kaplan, which provides education services covering four major areas: Kids and Schools, Test Preparation, Higher Education, and Career Advancement (through its Kaplan Professional resource).

EduNeering’s current management team will become part of Kaplan Professional.

:: People

FORMER PRESIDENT CLINTON TO SPEAK AT NSBA CONFERENCE. Former President Bill Clinton will deliver a keynote address at this month’s National School Boards Association conference. In addition, former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will provide a message by video. Others set to speak include former South African President F.W. de Klerk; actress Jamie Lee Curtis, author of several children’s books; and teacher Erin Gruwell, the subject of the recent movie Freedom Writers. One of Gruwell’s former students, Maria Reyes, who worked with Gruwell on Freedom Writers, a book of student writing that became the inspiration for the movie,will appear with her onetime teacher.

MIND EXPANDS REACH. The Music Intelligence Neural Development (MIND) Institute, a nonprofit education researcher and software developer, has hired former North Chicago Superintendent of Schools John Sawyer III as its newMidwest senior account executive.

At Huff Elementary School in Elgin, IL, a pilot program using MIND’s visual math education program helped the school increase its state math test scores from 51 percent proficiency to 80 percent proficiency inthe span of one school year.

Backed by these results, Sawyer will drive MIND’s expansion from its eight state service areas for elementary and middle schools to include Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2007 issue of THE Journal.

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