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Articles: Technology

How times have changed! Eight years ago this month, products on this page included early software for online instruction, a guide for the Mac OS X Jaguar operating system—known today as Snow Leopard—and a pre-cloud computing file saving system.

 

Black Box

VirtuaCore

Having loved libraries since she was a child, Deputy Superintendent Mary Kolek of New Canaan (Conn.) Public Schools was truly happy when the staff of the New Canaan High School Library Media Center won the 2010 National School Library Program of the Year Award, presented by the American Association of School Librarians. "Everything that our library media center is producing," she says, "is reflective of what we're trying to do as a district: create critical thinkers, problem solvers, creative collaborators."

Educators learned about the latest trends and products on the market at the annual Florida Education Technology Conference (FETC), held in February in Orlando. Just as the Consumer Electronics Show proclaimed 2011 as the "Year of the Tablet PC," FETC indicated that this year will be known for the arrival of tablets designed for education.

"We want a grant for 20 computers."

This was my directive from district administrators nearly 25 years ago. As a district grants specialist, I dutifully wrote the grant for computers so that the schools would be prepared for the 21st century. Back in the late 1980s, the computers themselves were the crux on the federal grant application.

Most of us are familiar with the damaging consequences of computer viruses such as freezing worms and Trojan horses. Another set of devious hacking forces, however, known as botnets, have caused districts to re-evaluate their online security measures. A botnet is a network of computers controlled remotely by hackers and infected with malware. Unlike other viruses, botnets do not run on autopilot once they gain access. They infiltrate computers, usually via e-mail, and they take advantage of the affected computers' Web browser vulnerabilities while spreading spam and viruses.

The 700 students that attend Mississinawa Valley (Ohio) Schools now have some work to do on their snow days. Only three "calamity days" are allowed, instead of the usual five, and two days will become "eDays," in which all K12 students will spend their time working on online lessons created by their teachers. This was made possible after the Ohio Department of Education in September allowed the district to adopt this change. On the fourth and fifth calamity days, students will log on to the district's Web site and follow their class's eDay lesson plans and assessments.

Schools across the nation have begun the transition toward cloud computing, and administrators knowledge and ease of use with cloud services ranges from early beginners to the very advanced. A new nonprofit organization, eduCloud, plans to level the playing field by developing a set of best practices for the development of K12 content, tools and assessments hosted in the cloud.

Social networking has become a quick and efficient way for K12 administrators to gain professional development.

Lyn Hilt, principal of Brecknock Elementary School in the Eastern Lancaster County (Pa.) School District recently had to create a new acceptable use policy for elementary student computer use. She posted on Twitter that she was looking for ideas, and within minutes she had dozens of examples from other districts' administrators, including a video that had interviews with students and an administrator discussing the rights and responsibilities of students.

Mobile learning—the use of mobile devices for educational purposes by students—is rapidly moving from an experimental initiative by a few innovative districts over the last five years to a broadly accepted concept in K12. The latest research and surveys, results of pilot programs, and analysis of trends in both public education and the broader technology industry all indicate that ubiquitous mobile learning—with mobile devices in every student’s hands and used in every classroom, school and district in the country—is advancing quickly and will arrive faster than many expected.

HEWLETT-PACKARD

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The processing speed, memory size and overall computing power of PC s have advanced at an exponential rate over the years, and the pace shows no signs of slowing. The result for many users—those in K12 schools in particular—is that the power of new computers is far greater than most require for the majority of applications. As a result, a number of desktop virtualization products have appeared in the last several years, which divide a single PC into multiple workstations.

School librarians took notice when in 2009 Cushing Academy, a private secondary school in Massachusetts, transformed its library from a traditional facility to a digital media center. The library gave away most of its 20,000 books and bought 200 iRiver Story and Kindle e-readers. The school also sold to all of its 445 students a laptop to which the library could deliver databases and Web-based electronic books.

Diane Lewis began building her popular virtual education program in a storage closet. The drab room, just big enough to squeeze in a tiny table, was her office at the headquarters of Seminole County (Fla.) Public Schools. She had a computer and a small staff of temporary workers. “We had pretty much no money, no people, no space,” recalls Lewis, director of instructional technology for the district. “One of the myths is, if you’re virtual, people don’t think you require anything.”

The physical infrastructure and capabilities of K12 information technology have undergone a transformation over the years, according to "The Future of Information Technology." This white paper, released by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) on Nov. 12, explains how K12 IT departments have evolved and where they will be a decade from now.

The paper notes four major trends changing the role of the CTO:

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