NECC 2009 will explore students’ roles in a digital world

Attendees at the 2009 National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) will examine what it means to live in a digital world, and will discuss the best ways to prepare students to become global citizens.

NECC celebrates its 30th anniversary in Washington, D.C. on June 28-July 1, 2009, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.  The conference is sponsored by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), which also celebrates its 30th year.

More than 18,000 teachers, teacher educators, technology coordinators, library media specialists, administrators, policy makers, and industry representatives are expected to attend.

"As we build this year’s program we’re exploring fundamental questions about what it means to be a digital citizen in a digital age," said Leslie Conery, ISTE’s deputy CEO and NECC conference chair.

"How do we prepare students for living and working in a global society and increasingly complex world? What new knowledge and skills are needed for productive collaboration in the 21st century?  And what types of learning environments foster the development of those skills?"

The conference will leverage ISTE’s 30th anniversary as an opportunity to celebrate the past, honor the present, and envision the future of technology-supported education. Some of the themes being explored at the conference include the role of technology in school improvement, the use of technology and the ethics and equity of equal access, and the construction of a technological infrastructure that supports effective teaching, learning, and administration.

The conference will feature myriad interactive learning formats, from hands-on workshops to bring-your-own-laptop sessions, special interest playgrounds, and multi-faceted networking opportunities for participants.

Author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell will deliver the opening keynote address.  The author of two perennial bestsellers, "The Tipping Point" and "Blink," Gladwell’s idea-driven narratives combine research with personal, social, and historical material. A staff writer for the New Yorker, Gladwell has introduced new concepts into the common vocabulary and helped transform business and culture.

As part of ISTE’s three-keynote series on digital citizenship, Gladwell will deliver his unique perspective on the ways that intentional practice today influences expert-development of the future.

"We’re pleased to bring Malcolm Gladwell back to NECC audiences for an opportunity to hear his latest thinking about learning," said Conery.  "His ideas challenged us in 2004 to think about the crucial role educators can play as connectors. We look forward to knowing more about his latest work–including his assessment of the role and value of technology for improving learning."

Gladwell’s speech will complement many of the themes being explored at NECC 2009.


NECC 2009


Prosecutor sued for threatening charges in ‘sexting’ case

The American Civil Liberties Union sued a Pennsylvania prosecutor on March 25 over his threats to charge three teenage girls with child pornography for allowing themselves to be photographed partly clothed with cell-phone cameras, Reuters reports. The case involves the growing practice among teens of "sexting," a play on the term texting, in which nude or semi-nude photos are sent on cell phones or posted on the internet. The ACLU said Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick accused the girls of being accomplices to the production of child pornography because they allowed themselves to be photographed. Other unidentified people distributed the pictures. Pictures showing two of the girls wearing white bras, and another standing topless with a towel wrapped around her waist were discovered by school officials in October 2008, the ACLU said. The pictures did not show any sexual activity. The ACLU said Skumanick should not have threatened to file felony charges against the girls unless they agreed to be placed on probation and participate in a counseling program. "Kids should be taught that sharing digitized images of themselves in embarrassing or compromised positions can have bad consequences, but prosecutors should not be using heavy artillery … to teach them that lesson," said Witold Walczak, legal director for ACLU Pennsylvania…

Click here for the full story


Political leaders meet with execs to discuss nation’s tech agenda

About 100 technology executives, including dozens of high-level officers and CEOs, met with White House officials and congressional leaders March 25 to discuss ways the tech industry can help turn around the economy — and the legislative agenda they say is needed to make that happen, CNET reports. Cisco CEO John Chambers, Hewlett-Packard Executive Vice President Mike Holston, and Solazyme CEO Jonathan Wolfson were some of the executives brought together in Washington by TechNet, a bipartisan political network of CEOs from the "innovation" economy. The organization unveiled its 2009 policy agenda, which includes some proposals already under way–such as support for green technologies and increased broadband infrastructure–as well as more controversial issues, like immigration reform and patent reform. The stimulus plan addresses some issues relevant to the tech community, such as health information technology and energy efficiency, but there needs to be "continued follow-through both from our side and their side," said Chris Hankin, senior director of federal government affairs for Sun Microsystems. The executives also appealed to the politicians to resist protectionist policies spurred by concern over U.S. job growth…

Click here for the full story


Twitter is put on new U.K. primary school curriculum

Children in the United Kingdom who are ages 5 to 11 will be taught how to use the social networking web site Twitter, as well as blogs, webcams, and podcasts, under plans for a new high-tech primary school curriculum, reports the Daily Telegraph. They will be expected to "develop an understanding" of different ways to communicate online. Improving keyboard skills, using web sites such as the online dictionary Wikipedia, and learning how to employ spell-checkers will also form part of the biggest overhaul of the nation’s primary-school lessons in the last 20 years. In mathematics, U.K. children will be expected to use spreadsheets to prepare budgets and manage their money. And in new-style "well-being" lessons, teachers will raise awareness about bullying via the internet and mobile phones, staying safe online, and using software piracy and computer security settings. The proposals are contained in draft copies of a new curriculum for five- to 11-year-olds that proposes slashing traditional subjects into six broad "areas of learning." Under the new plans, teachers will get more power to dictate lessons, and modern technology will form a backbone to the entire curriculum. But critics fear proposals are too radical. David Laws, the Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, said: "The curriculum must not be dumbed down as a result of these changes…"

Click here for the full story


Professor plans to market interactive teaching tool

Students at Oklahoma City University soon might find it harder to zone out during class, while others will have few excuses for missing a lecture: Bob Greve, professor of information technology at OCU’s Meinders School of Business, created a program where students can interact with their professors during class, answer questions, and take quizzes online using their own laptops or mobile devices, reports the Journal Record. Quiz results are tallied and displayed immediately on a screen behind the professor. LiveClassTech–the brainchild of Greve–is an interactive web site that requires only students’ own laptops. Students and professors log on, and–unlike with other student-response systems that require the purchase of "clickers"–no additional hardware or software is required. "We’re taking advantage of resources we already have," Greve said. The response from faculty has been positive, and the program keeps students on their toes. "I will teach for 15 minutes and then I will throw a quiz question up there," Greve said. "The students know the questions are coming, and they get a kick out of seeing how their peers are answering." He plans to sell it to other universities for $5 to $9 per student. The fee would be paid by the school or by students. Greve said students aren’t penalized for not having a laptop in his classes, and often if only a few students in a class have laptops others will share them…

Click here for the full story


Technology links museum to students in high-def

Through the internet and video conferencing technology, representatives from Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s distance learning initiative have appeared on large television screens in elementary, junior high, and high school classrooms in 23 states and Canada, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. They have presented programs on bats, groundhogs, owls, insects, bird nests, rocks, minerals, arctic life, the Iroquois, ancient Egypt, and dinosaurs. Students can see and hear the teachers, and teachers can hear and see them. Questions can be answered instantaneously. Carnegie Museum is one of about 160 institutions in the United States, Canada, and a handful of other countries to offer video conferencing programs to school districts through the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration in Indianapolis. Besides museums, the center taps zoos, science centers, aviaries, medical centers, halls of fame, corporations, performing arts centers, and other facilities with the capabilities to teach. The center offers school districts with the technology to do video conferencing a choice of more than 1,000 subjects. In 2008, Carnegie Museum made 250 presentations, charging districts $125 for each one-hour program. Dinosaurs were most in demand, followed by rocks and minerals and arctic life. This school year, Carnegie is one of the center’s top-ranked facilities in positive reviews from school districts, according to the museum’s executive director…

Click here for the full story


Six technologies soon to affect education

Collaborative environments, cloud computing, and "smart" objects are among the technologies that a group of experts believes will have a profound impact on K-12 education within the next five years or sooner.

The group, called the New Media Consortium (NMC), has come out with an annual report on emerging technologies in higher education for the last several years. This year, for the first time, NMC has issued a K-12 version of its "Horizon Report" as well.

The Horizon Report: 2009 K-12 Edition, released earlier this month, identifies and describes six emerging technologies that will have a huge impact on K-12 education within the next one to five years.

The report groups these technologies according to their time-to-adoption horizon–one year or less, two to three years, or four to five years. It also outlines key trends and challenges associated with the their adoption.

Made possible through a grant from Microsoft Corp., the report draws on published resources, current research and practices, and expertise from an advisory board of experts in education and technology. Members include representatives from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), technology vendors, EDUCAUSE, and U.S. school districts and universities.

"This is the first report we have developed with a focus on emerging technologies for elementary and secondary schools, and we hope that K-12 educators will use it as a resource for robust dialog and technology planning," said Larry Johnson, NMC’s chief executive. "The technologies we identified have the power to transform teaching and learning both in the short and long term."

The six technologies detailed in the report are…

– One year or less: collaborative environments and online communication tools
– Two to three years: mobile devices and cloud computing
– Four to five years: smart objects and the personal web

Collaborative environments

The report defines this as anything from simple web-based tools for collaborative work to multiplayer gaming environments, and from social-networking platforms to virtual worlds.

Examples of the tools used to create these environments include Voicethread, which allows users to collect multiple voices and viewpoints in a single package, and Ning, which lets teachers set up workspaces that include web feeds to pull in relevant resources, chat spaces (synchronous or asynchronous), forums, profiles, shared documents, calendars, music, and many other tools–all with a few clicks.

The benefit of using these tools, the report states, is to foster teamwork and critical thinking skills. The challenge is for educators to be able to assess these types of skills in real time.

Online communication tools

According to the report, these tools make it easy for students to move past the classroom walls and connect with their peers around the world, as well as with experts in the fields they are studying. Access to these tools gives students an opportunity to experience learning in multiple ways, develop a public voice, and compare their own ideas with those of their peers.

Tools mentioned in the report include Twitter, Skype, and Edmodo, a private micro-blogging platform that gives teachers and students a sheltered place to manage classroom assignments and activities as well as engage in protected conversations.

Mobile devices

Over the past few years, the report notes, smart phones and other mobile devices have become able to record audio and video, store more information, and access the web–making mobiles function like laptops.

"The combination of available applications and a device that [students] can carry provides an opportunity to introduce students to tools for study and time management that will help them later in life," says the report. "The implications for K-12 education are dramatic: the potential for mobile gaming and simulation, research aids, field work, and tools for learning of all kinds is there, awaiting development."

Cloud computing

This is a term for networked computers that distribute processing power and applications among many machines. Applications such as Flickr, Google Docs, and YouTube use a cloud as their platform, just as programs on a desktop computer use that single computer as a platform.

According to the report, cloud-based applications can provide students and teachers with free or low-cost alternatives to expensive, proprietary productivity tools. eMail, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, collaboration, media editing, and more can be done from a web browser, while the software and files reside in the cloud.

Smart objects

A smart object, as defined by the report, is "any physical object that includes a unique identifier that can track information about the object." The object can connect the physical world with the world of information. Smart objects can be used to manage physical things digitally, track them throughout their lifespan, and annotate them with descriptions, opinions, instructions, warranties, tutorials, photographs, and so on.

School libraries, for example, can use smart objects for tracking their collections and checking materials in and out. According to the report, some libraries are investigating further applications for smart objects: A project called ThinkeringSpaces, from the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design, "combines physical and virtual components to produce an environment where physical objects, like books, can be annotated with contextual information that is added manually or retrieved automatically."

Smart objects have recently become cheap for students and teachers to create, using Quick Response (QR) tags and smart-code stickers. Web services such as Shotcode and Kaywa let anyone encode QR tags and print them out. Products like Tikitag and Violet’s Mir:ror allow users to attach scannable stickers to household objects.

The personal web

This is a term to describe a collection of technologies "that confer the ability to recognize, configure, and manage online content, rather than just viewing it," the report says. Personal-web technologies give users the ability to sort, display, and even build upon web content according to their personal needs and interests.

According to the report, simple tools to create customized, web-based environments to support social and academic activities are easily available today, but their use in schools is severely hampered by access and filtering policies.

Along with a more fully developed discussion of the relevance of each technology to education, the report also gives examples of how the technology is being–or could be–applied in education. And it notes that two themes arose repeatedly during discussions of these technologies: assessment and filtering.

"Assessment continues to present a challenge to educators at all levels, particularly in the context of new media and collaborative work; evaluating student work that includes blogs, podcasts, and videos, or establishing how much an individual student contributed to or learned from a collaborative project, is difficult," the report explains. "Further, translating assessments of this nature into the metrics measured by standardized tests is not at all straightforward."

Continued the report: "Likewise, the practice of filtering is intimately related to each of these topics. At many schools today, the technologies named here cannot be used because they are blocked by content filters. The advisory board recognized the need for new [filtering tools] that do a better job of keeping objectionable content out of the way, while allowing useful tools and content to be accessed."

Other challenges to the adoption of these technologies in schools include the fundamental structure of the K-12 establishment, which is slow to adapt to new trends.

The full report is available on the NMC web site. The CoSN web site also features an online forum dedicated to an ongoing discussion about the report.

"For education leaders, this report is extremely valuable and critical to making sure that school districts are integrating technological tools that will have maximum impact," said Karen Greenwood Henke, CoSN board liaison. "Having a grasp on up-and-coming technologies empowers technology leaders to plan for the future and keep their students, educators, and administrators on the cutting edge."


Horizon K-12 Report

New Media Consortium

Consortium for School Networking

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Empowering Education Through Technology resource center. Integrating technology into the classroom can be a challenge without the right guidance. Go to: Empowering Education Through Technology


School sports caught in new-media rights dispute

A dispute over who has the right to broadcast school sporting events online has intensified, as a media company and a newspaper trade group say a lawsuit by Wisconsin’s high school athletic association is unconstitutional.

The Wisconsin Newspaper Association (WNA) and Gannett Co. filed a response and counterclaim in federal court in Madison on March 24 against the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIIA).

The WNA claims the WIAA is violating newspapers’ rights under the Copyright Act by granting exclusive contracts to private companies covering tournament events.

WIAA spokesman Todd Clark declined to comment, saying he hadn’t seen the WNA’s counterclaim. Jerry O’Brien, an attorney representing the WIAA, said he had a chance to scan the filing but would need time before he’d be able to comment on specifics of the case.

The WIAA filed its lawsuit in December against the WNA and Gannett, which owns the Post-Crescent of Appleton, after the newspaper’s webcast of a high school playoff game Nov. 8. (See "Lawsuit tackles school sports webcasts.")

The WIAA says one of its contracted private partners owned the webcast rights to the event and is owed a fee. But WNA lawyers contend that the host schools, all public, didn’t object when the Post-Crescent streamed the game and three others over the internet.

Dan Flannery, executive editor of the Post-Crescent, said reporters used the schools’ press boxes to work in and provide audio for the webcast. But Gannett newspapers did not receive permission and did not use a streaming internet report on four other games it wanted to cover.

Even though the WIAA is a nonprofit association operating independently of the state Department of Public Instruction, the WNA says the WIAA is acting on behalf of more than 500 public schools in Wisconsin, making football games government-sponsored public events played in venues built with public money.

The WIAA contends that football games are entertainment, not governmental functions.

The WNA and Gannett want a court to determine that the WIAA is a state actor on the schools’ behalf and rule that granting exclusive rights to tournament events amounts to "discriminatory media access," making it unconstitutional.

The filing by the WNA and Gannett adds that newspapers were not given notice or an opportunity to bid or negotiate for any of the exclusive rights that WIAA awarded.

"WIAA has no right to use long-term, no-bid, exclusive-rights contracts to explicitly or implicitly control the content of reporting about tournament events," the filing states.

The counterclaim also says the WIAA’s policies regarding newspapers selling photos it takes, internet broadcasts, and internet writing through live blogs should all be struck down.

"WIAA has no right to interfere with newspapers’ editorial discretion to report tournament events utilizing any technology of their choosing, including photography and internet streaming, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions applied equally to all similarly situated journalists," the filing states.

According to the WNA, the WIAA has attempted to restrict and censor written reports of tournament events and said WNA members in Milwaukee and Madison violated the exclusive-rights contracts by live blogging the state championship games last fall.

WIAA went so far as invoicing those newspapers for payment of license fees for those rights, according to the WNA’s counterclaim.

"Through this action, we want to protect the rights of our member newspapers to do the reporting that they have done for decades," said Peter Fox, executive director of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, which currently has 253 members. "The issue for Wisconsin newspapers is the WIAA’s overarching claim of ownership of all these aspects of hometown, high school sports."

In the initial lawsuit, the WIAA wanted a state court to rule it owned "any transmission, internet stream, photo, image, film, videotape, audiotape, writing, drawing, or depiction or description of any game, game action, game information, or any commercial used of the same of an athletic event that it sponsors, and that it has the right to grant exclusive rights to others."

The case was moved to federal court from state court last week.


Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association

Wisconsin Newspaper Association

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Empowering Education Through Technology resource center. Integrating technology into the classroom can be a challenge without the right guidance. Go to: Empowering Education Through Technology


University president talks, teaches tech

Building curriculum on the basics of information technology (IT) has helped one university president design courses that go beyond the surface teachings of computer certification to address skills that will last a lifetime.

Richard Shurtz, president of Stratford University in Virginia, doesn’t limit his message to the lecture hall. He takes it to the airwaves in a weekly radio show.

Shurtz is the host of Tech Talk Radio, which starts at 9 a.m. Saturdays on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C., area. The show has aired weekly since 2000, when Shurtz was a guest on several radio programs and was invited to host his own.

Shurtz, a Virginia resident and Stratford president for more than 20 years, chats with experts on everything from consumer electronics to technology training to politics and public policy during the hour-long broadcast.

"I run the show like a classroom on the airwaves," said Shurtz, 62, who has helped develop 250 undergraduate and 79 graduate programs at Stratford, many focusing on in-depth computer training. "Each show, I try to teach something new to my listeners. … It’s become a second career for me, and it’s something that I really enjoy."

Shurtz’s Tech Talk conversations are wide ranging–recently hosting experts on physics and space–but he has frequently addressed shortfalls in higher education’s computer curriculum. Computer certification courses that gained popularity in the 1990s concerned Shurtz, who said the training would not prepare students for the constantly changing IT field.

"The thing with certification is that the knowledge is only good until the next upgrade," he said. "I want to make sure they truly know what’s going on. I want [students] to have the kind of insight that lasts a lifetime."

Stratford’s adjustments have paid dividends. The university boasts a 70-percent program completion rate, and it expects enrollment to rise from 2,000 this year to around 3,000 in 2010, because Stratford, like many other colleges and universities, is bracing for an influx of students hoping to bolster their resumes in a down economy.

Shurtz’s lifelong work in the technology field has hastened the evolution of Stratford’s computer courses and programs. After earning his Ph.D. in physics from the Catholic University of America in 1968, Shurtz helped developed a variety of cutting-edge equipment, including night-vision goggles used during the Vietnam War, fiber optics, and early versions of conductor lasers.

Stratford’s comprehensive technology programs–which delved into the basics of programming languages and included lessons that would help students adjust to evolving programming codes–caught on until the dot-com crash of the late 1990s. Students who once flocked to IT courses were suddenly ignoring the curriculum, Shurtz said, so Stratford suspended many programming classes.

Seeing a need for IT administrators with business acumen, Shurtz launched undergraduate and graduate-level programs that merged business management with technology training.

"We responded to the marketplace and the job market," he said. "Businesses no longer want to have a pure technologist who can’t manage themselves out of a paper bag. They want someone who can hire and train and make a budget and achieve business objectives."

The business-IT classes proved popular at the university, which recently opened a campus in Woodbridge, Va., and Shurtz has overseen a new generation of business-savvy IT experts who are in demand in today’s job market.

"The combination of business and technology was a powerful combination," he said. "Businesses don’t care what kind of technology you use, they just want it to work for their needs."


Stratford University

Tech Talk Radio


Tanking property values might halt new Broward schools construction, technology

Throw the Broward County, Fla., school district’s five-year construction and technology plan out the window, district financial staff told school board members at a March 24 workshop, reports the Miami Herald. The reason: the state’s latest revenue predictions, which project that plummeting property values will cause a 14.9 percent dive in school property tax collections for the next fiscal year–and an 8.7 percent drop the following year. The shortfalls will translate into a loss of millions of dollars for capital projects, which means most plans will have to be pushed back or scrapped, district financial chief Ben Leong said. Board members already have eliminated or delayed some projects from the $3 billion construction plan owing to budget cuts. The additional reductions to the five-year plan would mean losing $1.39 billion in projects. The district also would not be able to afford existing, fixed capital costs–such as paying back debt and keeping technology leases–for two years, which means it would have to back out of some of those commitments or dip into money from its day-to-day operations to pay for them…

Click here for the full story