The State of Education

Florida Showcases the Best & Brightest Innovations at FETC 2005

For 24 years, the Florida Educational Technology Conference has been the premier showcase for the innovative ways Florida’s educators integrate technology into their classrooms. FETC continues this tradition as it celebrates its 25th anniversary from Jan. 26-28 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. Here is just a sampling of the innovations that can be found during the upcoming event’s sessions, workshops and exhibits.

Developing the ‘Whole Child’: Oc'ee Middle School

Located within the city limits of Oc'ee, Fla., just west of Orlando, Oc'ee Middle FETC Celebrating 25 YearsSchool (OMS) serves about 1,500 students in grades six through eight with innovative teaching practices, a technology-supported curriculum and cutting-edge environs.

Chosen by Florida to serve as a model school under the SMART (Soundly Made, Accountable, Reasonable and Thrifty) Schools Act, which aims to ensure schools are offering successful but cost-effective environments, OMS has broken the mold of traditional education with a technology-enhanced approach to facility design and instructional delivery. The school stresses the “development of the whole child” through an integrated curriculum with an emphasis on teacher and student use of technology in the classroom. Flexible instructional space is allowed by operable walls as teachers wear wireless microphones so that students can hear lessons clearly. Each classroom also boasts ceiling-mounted projectors and document cameras accompanied by large screens for viewing morning announcements, videos and multimedia presentations. Thus, students are engaged and motivated throughout the day as they utilize their tablet PCs and online textbooks.

In addition to general classes, the school provides programs in the areas of gifted education, specific learning disabilities,
emotionally handicapped, speech and language therapy, and occupational therapy. It also serves as a bilingual center, teaching Spanish-speaking students math, science, social studies and language arts in their native language, while they simultaneously learn to master English.

OMS’s Web site is another technology tool utilized by faculty, students and parents. Students can log on to the site and visit interactive pages dedicated to extracurricular activities - from creative arts to the student council - while parents can access resources ranging from scholarship and college planning to school calendars and upcoming events. In addition, more than half of the school’s teachers have home pages accessible through the site, serving as another way to help students and families keep track of assignments and events.

A recipient of many awards and acknowledgements, the school has been named a “Five Star School” by the Commissioner’s Community Involvement Council, a “Golden School” by the Florida Education Department, and a “Microsoft Center of Innovation,” besting 200 other schools. For more information on OMS, visit

Two campus tours of the school will be available in groups of 75 on Thursday, Jan. 27. The first tour is from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., while the second tour takes place from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. E-mail [email protected] for more information.

A Laptop a Day: Manatee County Schools

In November 2002, the Manatee County Schools Department of Instructional Technology applied for two competitive federal grants funded by the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program, part of the NCLB Act. The goal was to fund an innovative concept that would give students and teachers access to technology by providing laptops to use at school and at home.

One grant provided funds for selected classrooms at the secondary level; the other grant at the primary level. All of thedistrict’s schools received an invitation to participate, but not all responded because the selected schools had to provide half of the funding to buy their laptops. A committee from the IT department evaluate>d the schools’ proposals and selected 10participants.

Concurrently, the EETT funds provided Manatee County with other money to be allocated without competition. Using these funds, district technology leaders implemented a research program at some of the selected schools. Five teachers were selected based on their histories of integrating technology into standards-based curricula. These teachers had the direct opportunity to study what happens when students have their own computers for use at school and at home. They formed a focus group and met on a regular basis to discuss their observations.
The teachers immediately noticed a rise in the students’ excitement, engagement and connection to their assignments.

FETC attendees are encouraged to join a campus tour of the Oc'ee Middle School and its cutting-edge facility on Thursday, Jan. 27.Since inception, the program has placed about 3,000 laptops into the hands of students and teachers - from the last one-room schoolhouse in the state to a high school with enrollment numbers surpassing 2,000. Besides using the laptops in their daily school activities, students regularly share their multimedia projects through community presentations.

The connected learning community continues to expand as interest grows throughout the district. Rollouts are currently being arranged for 2005 and beyond. More information can be found by visiting or by attending the “EDGE (Education Through Dynamic Global Experience) Project” session at FETC 2005 on Thursday, Jan. 27, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Room S320C.

A National E-Learning Model: Florida Virtual School

Florida Virtual School (FLVS) provides free online classes and instruction to all public, private and homeschool students in Florida who have access to an Internet-enabled computer and express a desire to learn through a nontraditional delivery method. With more than 10,000 students enrolled throughout Florida’s 67 counties, FLVS students have exceeded the GPA and AP scores of the average Florida student. They continue to do this while learning at - as the school describes it - “anytime, anyplace, (on) any path, (at) any pace.”

Since its inception in 1997, FLVS has pioneered Florida’s first Internet-based public high school and has beenestablished as an independent education entity with a gubernatorial-appointed governing board. Currently, it offers 75 courses, including honors and AP classes, all of which are accepted for credit and transferable. Students who are not from Florida can also enroll on a tuition basis.

The Internet-based public school offers courses online with a rigorous curriculum for middle and high school students, as well as adults seeking GED alternatives. Teachers communicate with students and parents regularly via telephone, e-mail, online chats, instant messaging and discussion forums. Monthly progress reports are provided to track academic growth. More than 100 FLVS teachers reside throughout Florida; all possess a valid Florida teaching certificate and 15 are nationally certified. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and all courses are NCAA-approved.

Partnered with BellSouth, IBM, Sprint, and others, the school has garnered three awards from the United States Distance Learning Association. For more information on Florida Virtual School,log on to or visit the school’s exhibit at FETC 2005.

For more information on FETC 2005, visit

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2005 issue of THE Journal.

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