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Articles: Technology

Notification systems—which use the Internet to enable school administrators to make and send thousands of automated phone calls, text messages and e-mails in minutes—are expanding in popularity in school districts across the country.

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 14.2 million computers were in schools across the country in 2005-2006, a ratio of one for every four students and more than 20 times the number in schools in 1984-1985. Along with the tremendous opportunities for student learning afforded by this trend comes the risk of distraction and inappropriate use of computers and the Internet by students. Classroom management software was developed to address these concerns and to help teachers maximize the instructive capabilities of classroom computers.

Dozens of notification systems are on the market. Here are some of the fully hosted online services designed specifically for K12 education.

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Giddings, Texas, is a small town located in the middle of a very large and rural state. “We’re pretty much an agricultural, oil and gas type community,” says Michael S. Kuhrt, superintendent of the 1,900-student school district.

Even with stimulus dollars flowing nationwide, districts are still facing large budget deficits and are looking for ways to save money. Some are investigating free and open source software (FOSS ) as a result.

FOSS applications are the work of communities of developers, usually volunteers, who keep the source code open and allow the software to be distributed for free. Any user can customize it, add to it, and fix its bugs. Although FOSS has been around for decades and used in many industries, school districts have generally been slow to embrace it.

The development of the first personal computer in 1971 began a process that has led to a computer reduced in size, weight and cost, which makes it increasingly popular in education—the netbook. Initially caught flat-footed by the concept, major manufacturers are scrambling to produce their own models, sometimes working with district leaders to test them.

In early March, as he addressed the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., President Obama spoke at great length of the reforms he believes will give Americans “a complete and competitive education, from the cradle up through a career.” The proposals he laid out for improving early childhood education, K12 standards and assessments, graduation rates, teacher quality and college funding will be debated for months to come by thousands of school administrators, teachers, parents and politicians.

 

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In the digital world we live in, being a “viewer ” is past. Web 2.0 tools—social networks, wikis, blogs, voicestream, YouTube, Google Docs—allow users to be participants. Instead of creating isolated users, such technologies foster community and collaboration.

 

Stephen White, solutions manager for cloud computing at HP, describes the company’s vision of cloud computing as a future with “everything as a service,” not just software programs. Here are some district management technology tools that are already heading into the cloud.

 

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While some districts have been making use of surveillance cameras for years, today's camera technology is less expensive and easier to maintain and operate. These factors, combined with concerns about violence, vandalism, theft and other security issues, have led to a rise in the use of school surveillance. Early privacy concerns about the use of cameras in schools, while not having completely vanished, are beginning to recede, as the average American has begun to accept that surveillance cameras are in use in most public places, from the gas station to the grocery store to the highway.

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