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Articles: Technology

The latest trend in the rapidly advancing and fiercely competitive interactive whiteboard market reflects the ever-increasing popularity and global appeal of this technology: support for multiple languages. A variety of manufacturers have recently added or expanded their language resources because of U.S. demand for teaching ELL students, the use of the devices in foreign language classes and strong sales in countries around the world.

Proving once again to be a leader in school technology, the Vail (Ariz.) School District is now providing wireless access in school buses. In early December 2009, the district installed its first wireless router attached to a cellular 3G network in one high school bus. Although the district paid for this out of pocket, officials hope to obtain a $15,000 Qwest Foundation Grant from Qwest Communications to fund routers in the 20 buses that run the longest high school routes.

Call it a case of "vertigo." Middle school media specialist Grace Poli was determined to find a way to use technology to help her ELL and special-needs students learn English more quickly. As she watched the Apple ad featuring the U2 song "Vertigo," something clicked.

"I thought, 'This will motivate kids,'" says Poli. After looking into the benefits of music and how audiobooks can help struggling readers, Poli approached her superintendent with a proposal for an after-school iPod program.

Administrators and information technology staff at Hudson Falls Central School District in Kingsbury, N.Y., found that individually managed computers were costing them an inordinate amount of time and money. This small suburban school district uses 1,400 desktop computers and its IT staff needs to continually update software, fix problems and keep settings consistent. According to Brian Becker, director of education for Hewlett- Packard, who works with the Hudson Falls district, IT support needs were "overwhelming" the staff.

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For many students, natural science seems irrelevant to everyday life. Whether they are teaching biology or physics, unless they explicitly show students how formulas and processes apply to their own lives, teachers run the risk of disengaging students and allowing their minds to wander freely.

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The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has released the Milestones for Improving Learning and Education (MILE ) Guide, a new tool for K12 leaders to assess where their district falls in providing their students with critical 21st century skills.

The MILE Guide is the most recent release from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, an organization that promotes the integration of these critical skills into core academic subjects.

It’s not only the treatments of viruses that can have side effects. The H1N1 epidemic itself has created a variety of “side effects” around the country, as well as in nearly every school district. Among them have been opportunities for companies to cash in with new products and services. Not all are legitimate.

Online learning providers have long touted a variety of advantages of their solutions. But the H1N1 epidemic has given new reasons for schools to invest in such technology.

Many district administrators are finding that they can save money on computers by buying preowned ones instead of new ones. The practice has other benefits as well: It allows districts to give more computers to more students who need them, and it also promotes good environmental practices by keeping the machines out of landfills, where they otherwise might wind up.

If you haven’t read the new MacArthur foundation report Living and Learning with new Media (http:// bit.ly/SooSe), which discusses how our kids are using social networks and tools to connect, you might want to consider it sooner rather than later. In a nutshell, the study found that kids are using online social technologies in impressive numbers to stay connected to the people they already know and, more importantly for us, to connect to other people around the globe they don’t know but with whom they share a passion or an interest.

For the Tangipahoa Parish School System, federal stimulus funds provided a unique opportunity to get some new computers for its classrooms. But for the district, located about 40 miles northwest of New Orleans, upgrading systems wasn’t a simple matter of buying new, previously unaffordable machines.

As cell phones—with ever-expanding possibilities of texting, Web browsing, and game playing—have multiplied in recent years among teenagers and even preteens, so have the concerns of teachers and administrators about the distractions these devices can cause. A survey of students and parents earlier this year by the group Common Sense Media found that almost 70 percent of schools around the country ban student cell phone use during the school day.

Cell phones were banned from most schools years ago, but after the Columbine High School and 9/11 tragedies, parents started pressuring some school boards and administrators to reverse the bans. On its surface, allowing students to have cell phones under the guise of improved school safety may seem like a “no-brainer” to many board members and administrators. But an in-depth analysis suggests that while students having cell phones may make parents feel better, it actually could create a less safe situation in a school crisis.

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