Districts in the area covered by the LEARN Regional Educational Service Center in southeastern Connecticut for the past four years have boosted their ability to save money on bulk technology purchases through online reverse auctions. Such auctions are designed so that vendors try to out-lowball one another to get the job in school districts.
County, regional and statewide education service centers that provide shared purchasing power and technical support have been around for as long as a half-century, and some have helped districts gain lower prices on technology through economies of scale since the heyday of the Apple II. But the combination of tighter-than-ever budgets and greater-than-ever needs for computing and other leading-edge technology has made the opportunities that education service centers provide all the more valuable in the past three years.
Technology may have, at last, caught up with the intentions of balanced assessments—or at least it has in the Douglas County (Colo.) School District, according to Syna Morgan, the district’s executive director of performance and accountability. Already a high-performing district with 62,000 students across 86 schools, Douglas County wanted to take its assessment data to the next level by making students not only college-bound, but global leaders.
A three-year program launched this past September by Microsoft will ensure that 1 million students from low-income families in the United States receive software, hardware and discounted broadband Internet service at home. It’s the “digital inclusion” arm of Shape the Future. Shape the Future makes it possible for anyone to have access to 21st-century tools, regardless of their ability to afford it, according to Dan McFetridge, business development director of the Shape the Future program at Microsoft.
There has been talk of a backlash with education technology. The New York Times published an article recently implying that technology in the classroom does not work, and then another on how some well-known Silicon Valley gurus prefer having their children learn by performing hands-on tasks rather than using high-tech tools in the classroom.
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.
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
Administrators shouldn't only look outside their districts for something new when researching possible products or technology to purchase; solutions can sometimes be found in unexpected places. "When we get a request to purchase something new, such as curriculum software, we do a thorough examination of what we already have to make sure we don't duplicate functionality," says Roderick Matthews, director of information technology in the Recovery School District in New Orleans.
School administrators are faced with a wide variety of choices and a huge market when it comes to products and technology. According to a report issued in March by market research firm Compass Intelligence, school districts spend over $18 billion annually on IT-related purchases, and the market is projected to grow to nearly $21 billion by 2015.
81 percent of administrators said their districts were adequately teaching students about Internet safety, but just 51 percent of teachers said so. SOURCE: National Cyber Security Alliance and Microsoft