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Here's What's in Store for Education Technology

March 01, 2001|SUSAN McLESTER | smclester@cmp.com

What's new and hot in technology? Attendees found out pretty quickly at the recent Florida Educational Technology Conference. This is one of the best of its kind, as the state gives teachers time off from teaching to attend. Usually, about 15,000 educators and 500 exhibitors participate. After a couple of days of total-immersion meetings, demos and safaris around the exhibit floor at this high-powered event, you emerge with a pretty good sense of what's happening in the world of education technology.

Here is a sampling of the trends, issues and products that education editors will be watching for in upcoming months.

One-to-One Computing

Whether it be a laptop or a hand-held device, the one-to-one student computing device is shaping up as the wave of the future for schools.

Imagine you're a fourth-grader booting up your laptop at the basketball court or on your bed and going into a filtered online search for a history project. You type in "battleship" or "Maine," and up comes a home movie by Thomas Edison about the battleship Maine (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/mdbquery.html). Could history be more real or fun?

Laptop programs for schools are nothing new, but the latest twist has companies pairing hardware and content to provide a more complete solution. Among them are Netschools and Hewlett-Packard, which have teamed up to deliver Star Teacher. The package includes a laptop for the teacher and each student, along with content for math, science and language. A key component to their offering: a mandatory one-year training commitment to help teachers integrate the program into their curricula.

Mindsurf offers a solution made up of a wireless network, educational content and a Compaq hand-held device connected to the Internet. The company had high school English teacher Rick Robb give a rundown on how he uses the product.

For a lesson on Hamlet, he had students compare Ophelia and Gertrude via video clips they accessed on their hand-helds. At the same time, they could view and highlight accompanying text to save in their report file, or instantly e-mail an interesting passage to Mom or Dad. Robb also could program each of the devices to sound an alarm at 8 p.m. with a message to students to start studying for that Shakespeare test. Ooohhh! Welcome to the future.

Palm told me recent research showed that students are spending only two hours a week on the Web--not enough to gain the skills necessary to be ready for the real-world workplace.

The solution? A Palm giveaway to 100 classrooms around the country that can put together a convincing two-year plan for learning with hand-helds. For details on the program, visit http://www.palm.com/education.

Value Added

The big computer companies are vying to give schools extra value when they purchase computers. Dell will ship its machines installed with AOL@school, which offers Web links for teachers and kids.

Gateway is ramping up its service commitment to schools and expanding. You'll be seeing a lot more of its country stores nationwide. But the real news is that these stores will now have salespeople trained to teach educators how to use technology.

Good Ideas

Canadian-based Chancery Software (http://www.chancery.com), which supplies large data management solutions to schools and districts, is providing support for at-risk students. The company has folded eSped (e-Special Education) into its products. This offering will speed up and streamline the process of putting together an individual education plan.

The Lightspan Network (http://www.lightspannetwork.com) has added Edutest to its online offerings. This database of standardized test questions enables teachers to give students test-taking practice.

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Susan McLester is editor of Technology & Learning magazine.

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