NECC 2009 closed with an inspiring keynote by Erin Gruwell, president of the Freedom Writers Foundation, who described how technology (coupled with great teaching) can unleash students' creative potential and enable powerful collaboration.

As a recent college graduate, Gruwell began teaching at Wilson High School in Long Beach, Calif., where students "lived in a racially divided urban community and were hardened by first-hand exposure to gang violence, juvenile detentions, and drugs," she explained. The school also had limited textbooks and no technology.

"One of the students in my class was named Maria," Gruwell said. "She was wearing an ankle bracelet that monitored...

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