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Articles: Technology

Readers spoke out in the largest numbers yet for District Administration’s 2011 Readers’ Choice Top 100 Products awards. The DA editorial staff spent days sifting through hundreds of submissions and learning about new and innovative education products nominated by readers. Nominations were accepted via the DA Web site from March through Sept. 15, 2011. Each nomination required a testimonial from a school administrator to allow us to understand how the product specifically impacted a school or district. Some products received more than 70 unique nominations.

When Google+ was announced in late June, it began in a field trial to determine its place in social networking. While it's still unavailable to Google Apps for Education customers and the jury is still out on whether or not it will be right for K12 public schools, the project is designed to make sharing on the Web more like the real world—sharing different pieces of information with different people.

For the last decade, Carrollton-Farmers Branch (Texas) ISD Director of Technology Andy Berning has taken a pragmatic approach to 1:1 learning in his district of over 25,000 students by assessing the individual technology needs of the student population so as not to over-deliver and waste money. DA recently spoke with Andy to get his perspective on technology management in his district.

As districts rely less on isolated K12 data and more on digital delivery for academic and business needs, chief technology officers have a greater need for interoperability standards that allow them to assemble multiple, cloud-based tools and services into one, according to CoSN's Interoperability Standards for K-12 Education primer.

In the past five years as CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, I have witnessed tremendous growth in the use of online learning as a solution for today's students. In recent years, there is a new trend taking the best instructional models and technology tools from student-centered, online courses and bringing the designs and flexibility that online learning affords into our brick-and-mortar classrooms.

Over 150 school districts in Illinois have teamed up to share software and technology through IlliniCloud, a one-of-its-kind nonprofit cloud-computing consortium for schools. Jim Peterson, IlliniCloud's chief technology officer and Bloomington (Ill.) Public Schools' technology director, started IlliniCloud in 2009 with the help of technology company CDW. Three data centers, located in Belleville, Bloomington and DeKalb, house computer systems, backup power supplies and security devices.

Are you an "unlearner?" If not, you need to become one—fast. Of the many important messages articulated by Duke professor Cathy Davidson in her newest book Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, that may be the one that is most relevant for educational leaders at this moment.

After billions of dollars spent, the impact on student achievement of computer use in K12 has been essentially zero. The reason is: The same textbooks, the same curriculum and the same pedagogy continue to be used, but computers have been substituted for pencil and paper. Teachers have had their students use computers to search for information instead of having them go to their school library. Direct instruction is the technical term for this teacher-centric pedagogical style, but we refer to it as "I teach."

In tough economic times for school districts across the nation, might it help to cut costs further if districts required students to bring their own devices? For now the jury is out, but district leaders are trying to figure out how to support many different devices in their buildings as state and federal funds for education get even tighter than they were just a few years ago.

While today's K12 classrooms use more multimedia than ever before, typically it is the visual technologies—such as projectors, interactive whiteboards and television displays—that receive most of the attention in the marketplace. The audio component is just as important, however, and can often be overlooked. That is rapidly changing, and a number of companies are beginning to design classroom audio systems to meet a growing demand for better sound.

According to a study on the 2011 Vision K-20 Initiative, the U.S. is not making progress toward educational technology benchmarks, particularly helping schools meet students' individual needs and providing authentic assessment tools. Source: Software and Information Industry Association

TCI K12 Social Studies Curriculum

Pricing varies by student count

Sitting on 40 acres of rolling hills in Hillsboro, Mo., about 50 miles southwest of St. Louis, is the Grandview R-II School District, which has 850 K12 students and about 120 staff members. Nearly 100 percent of the computers operate in the cloud.

In the 1990s, school districts invested all they could in desktop computers that had plenty of horsepower, since applications and data were all stored locally on individual machines. By the 2000s, the individual machines had become less critical as districts moved to server-based networks.

Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools class warfare

Simon & Schuster, $28