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Dear Educator,

Like districts across the country, Hamilton County School District in northern Florida has moved rapidly to apply twenty-first century technology to teaching and learning. But until three years ago, and despite the growing use of classroom technology in the rural district, one key instructional function—the writing of lesson plans—was still being done the old fashioned way: with pen and paper.

“States that do not have public charter laws or put artificial caps on the growth of charter schools will jeopardize their applications under the Race to the Top fund.” With these words from a conference call to reporters in June, Education Secretary Arne Duncan made explicit just how central charter schools are to the Obama administration’s commitment to educational innovation.

Even though Google Wave will not be released until later this year, it is already making, well, waves. The forthcoming application combines elements such as e-mail, instant messaging, and wikis and allows collaboration around hosted conversations called waves. Although Google Wave is not strictly an educational application, educators are blogging about it enthusiastically—despite the fact that its release date has not even been announced.

Disney's Planet Challenge, a project-based environmental competition for students in grades 4-6, is expanding nationwide. Disney started the program in 1994 in partnership with the California Department of Education, and it has been so successful in that state and in Florida that the company has decided to open it to schools from all 50 states. Students in the program come up with a project-anything from recycling electronics to protecting a local habitat-and manage it from start to finish.

Connecticut has become the third state, after New York and Illinois, to require public schools to use green cleaning supplies. In June, Gov. Jodi Rell signed a bill that had received broad support from health professionals, parents, educators, and the environmental community. Cleaning products used in schools will need to carry the Green Seal or Eco Logo certifications after the law takes effect on July 1, 2011, although districts will be allowed to use existing stocks of supplies.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford reluctantly applied for $700 million in stimulus funds after the state Supreme Court forced him to do so in June. The court reasoned that since the legislature had appropriated these funds already, and appropriating funds is the legislature’s and not the governor’s responsibility under the state constitution, Sanford was obligated to apply.