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enhancing education through technology

A Pew Internet study released in April, “The Rise of e-Reading,” notes a gathering American trend of embracing digital content. The report found that 43 percent of Americans age 16 or older have read an e-book or other long-form digital material, such as a magazine article, over the past year. Of those in this age group who read every day or almost every day for work or school, 54 percent use tablets or other e-book readers. The report also says that those who read with e-book devices read more than others, and that portability and speedy access are major drivers of this trend.

Cameron Evans, Microsoft’s education chief information officer, doesn’t so much see the future holding a single device for one-to-one connections in classrooms, but what he terms “a richly connected ecosystem of learning devices, apps and services that are smart and aware of each other.”

Sixth-graders from the Wayland-Cohocton Middle School in New York train on Toshiba tablets, which the school won in a 2010 Win a Wireless Lab Sweepstakes.

Tablets have come a long way since Apple launched its pioneering Newton MessagePad in 1993, the first Internet-connected flat-screen device pairing a stylus with handwriting-recognition software. Since then, computer hardware companies have been refining and experimenting with the concept of Internet-connected tablet computing devices. The personal digital assistant (PDA), convertible laptop/tablets, dual-screen booklet tablets, e-book readers and other designs have been among the many iterations of tablet computers, sometimes known as slates or media tablets.

Industry experts and district technology officers offered a number of thoughts on what K12 school systems should know before investing in a new or upgraded student information system. The questions they suggest asking are:

Chris Comstock, Gooding High School principal, sitting in background, teacher Stefanie Shaw, standing, and Heather Williams, Gooding School District superintendent, discuss at-risk high school students’ intervention plans in the Milepost SIS program.

Like seemingly everyone else connected to K12 education, vendors that offer student information systems are being called upon to do more with less.

Instantly transform any image or object into digital, interactive content with document cameras, also known as visual presenters. Companies that create these products have come a long way in the last few years, as document cameras are now more compact, mobile and interactive.

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Until recently, student electronic devices, from cell phones to iPods to laptop computers, were the forbidden fruit in schools. But with technology budgets languishing and such devices becoming more powerful, affordable and omnipresent in students’ lives, district technology leaders are now eyeing a welcome educational harvest through bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs.

While Facebook and Google+ are popular social networks for everyday life, dozens of other networks have been created to provide safe and effective social learning environments for K12 education. Social learning networks (SLNs) allow students to learn 21st-century skills. Students can build online portfolios and resumes and collaborate with peers through project-based learning, which will help them in college or the workforce.

The Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District dream team solves problems. Clockwise from top left: Robert Lane, Robert Rhyne, Frank Mukina, Scott Smith, Jeff Martin, Kim Cline and Michael Hiskey.

At almost every turn over the past decade—from innovative instructional technologies to advanced database management—administrators and teachers have discovered a brave new world in education. But a host of experts in educational technology say that for all the progress in districts so far, that world is becoming markedly braver and newer—and in a hurry.