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There's a difference between a refurbished computer that merely appears brand new and one that actually performs as if it just rolled off the manufacturing line. CDI, a refurbisher that serves many Us school districts, uses rigorous testing to ensure its products meet the higher standard. "We do more checks, both automated and by technician," says Chris Bristow, CDI's operations manager. "And we go deeper into the machine to ensure every component is working, as opposed to simply checking that the unit is operable." Attention to detail makes the difference. Is the monitor bright and clear?

In June 2008, Ken Lupo, director of technology for Saline, Mich., Area Schools, was leaving frequent voicemails asking his district’s 600 employees to empty their inboxes to free email storage space. The email system the district had relied on for years was simply not able to manage or store all the email for faculty and staff.

If you're shopping for a new computer, what do you look for? A unit that's reliable, that can handle all your software applications and that is backed by an iron-clad warranty.

There's no reason to restrict your search to new computers. Recertfied computers can meet all of those requirements, too — at about a third to one-half the cost of new equipment.

<b>Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Florida</b>

At Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Polar heart rate monitors have introduced a “wow factor” to physical education that has motivated students to take on personal ownership of their fitness achievements.

<b>What exactly is the "New PE," and how can technology help districts embrace it? </b>

Amid the war between parents and popular music, a compromise has been drawn in schools across the country as rap music makes its debut in classrooms. The Flocabulary program, an educational hip hop music series, has been introduced as a means of learning facts and rote memorization. Its founders, Alex Rappaport and Blake Harrison, created their company in the belief that difficult material could be mastered if introduced in an engaging way.

An organization comprised of September 11th victims’ family members, rescue workers, survivors and educators called the September 11th Education Trust has released a curriculum for grades 6-12 on the terrorist attacks and their aftermath. The September 11th Education Program includes comprehensive lesson plans with 70 video interviews and transcripts, primary source materials, handouts and questions for research and discussion.

Teachers are 21st-century knowledge workers, and students are 21st-century knowledge-workers-in-training. As such, they both need to use appropriate 21st-century tools to pursue their professional goals.

Jim Shelton is the DOE's point person for the 13 fund.