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Online revolution hints at future of paperless schools
January 22, 2010, 4:17 am
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The Government held out a vision of the paperless school yesterday when it unveiled plans to put all the subjects in the national curriculum online from September next year.

The Government held out a vision of the paperless school yesterday when it unveiled plans to put online all the subjects in the national curriculum from next September.

The Education minister Baroness Ashton of Upholland, speaking at the launch of the £200m scheme, said she believed “computers will eventually replace these” as she held up a pen and a piece of paper. Under the scheme, the Government is earmarking £50m for schools to buy their own online teaching materials.

The BBC is spending £150m over the next five years so that a wide range of subjects can be taught online and teachers can tap into already prepared lesson plans to reduce the amount of time spent on marking and preparation. Lady Ashton said the drive was likely to lead “eventually” to a computer on every school desk. Lady Ashton and Lord Puttnam, the chairman of the General Teaching Council, the new professional body set up for teachers, predicted 10 or 20 years might be needed for the revolution in the classroom to be completed.

But Lady Ashton added: “This will transform teaching and learning in a way that it has not been since the Victorian times.” Lord Puttnam said a Victorian surgeon would not recognise or be able to work in a modern hospital were he to arrive back on Earth today, but a classroom would still look the same if a teacher were to do likewise.

Both said the changes would not mean books or teachers becoming obsolete but would form an additional and crucial aid to learning. The new curriculum would also allow pupils to choose from a broader range of studies including minority languages such as Latin and Japanese.

Yesterday’s announcement is part of a £1.5bn drive that has seen 96 per cent of primary schools and 99 per cent of secondary schools linked to the internet. Pupils would be able to do much learning online and tap into expert teaching.

Doug Brown, of the National Grid for Learning, which oversees online learning materials, said some schools had already widened A-level studies since using online teaching materials. He said: “Schools are offering subjects like economics and psychology, which they couldn’t have done before because they couldn’t justify the teaching staff. They use video conferencing links to learn with other schools and then bring specialists into the classroom.”


Paperless classroom to test new learning methods
January 22, 2010, 4:16 am
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High school students in Emily Straub’s junior American literature class will go “paperless” this semester, using computers to get assignments, read some text and listen to audio.

Straub said she’s been allowing her students to use their own computers to do work at home for the past two years. A recently approved $19,180 grant from the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation will help her effort this year by purchasing 26 Dell laptop computers for the students to use at school.

“This is something I started about three years ago,” Straub said. “About 95 percent of the American literature class already is available online.”

Straub said the students also would be able to borrow the laptops to take home.

“They seem to respond very favorably to it,” she said of the paperless aspect. “School can be so social. Sometimes home can be a better work environment.”

Straub said students in a paperless classroom could work at their own pace and that she sometimes gets more work out of them if they are writing words on a computer, as opposed to writing on a piece of paper. She said over the past few years, students writing in journals would produce maybe 200 words, whereas those typing on computers were more likely to write 500 to 1,000 words, “not even thinking about it.”

She said it’s a different time and students learn differently because “that’s how they communicate.”

“They like to have things at their fingertips,” she said.

Students will spend two to three days a week working on computers in the classroom. The other days they will work on class notes or collaborative projects. Straub said all of their worksheets and other resources could be accessed online, such as information about authors like Edgar Allen Poe, for example.

Though much of the learning will be via the computer screen, Gayatri said, students will continue to have hard copies of books to read.

One of her main challenges in starting the program is to make sure the students know they cannot use “chat speak” or texting terminology. She said they still must maintain proper grammar and word usage even if they are typing their papers on a computer instead of writing on paper.

“We have to teach them how to be online learners,” she said. “We have to teach kids how to be proficient online users.”

The concept of the paperless classroom is one the district is embracing.

Assistant Superintendent Mark White told the Gahanna-Jefferson school board in December that the district is interested in promoting what he calls 21st-century skills and learning in the district’s proposed new building: Clark Hall.

Clark Hall will be built at Hamilton Road and Granville Street, where a Kroger store once stood. It is being touted as the first of its kind, a school-owned building with 50,000 square feet of educational space on the second and third floors and retail space on the first floor.

The district held a groundbreaking ceremony for Clark Hall on Nov. 19, and the building is expected to be built and open by fall 2011.

White said the new building would incorporate new ways of learning, with more open spaces, more natural light and some furniture, where students could sit and work on a laptop.

As part of the Clark Hall project, White said, the district is working with two computer companies to seek help in funding computer systems for the new building. He said he and other district officials would travel to Austin, Texas, to meet with Dell officials and then to California to meet with Apple representatives about the project.

White said both companies have expressed interest in working with the district.

The trips are being funded with teacher-training funds.

“A lot of this (project) is going to be self-paced, the way learning at Clark Hall will be,” Straub said. “That’s the way online learning works: It’s self-paced so you can spend as much time or as little time as you want.”

Straub’s experiments will help provide data to support the district’s idea of a paperless building through surveys and other data she will collect this school year, she said. She said she is conducting student surveys throughout the rest of the school year and that she’ll compare the students’ work with that of a control class that will continue to learn via traditional methods.

Straub is using the computers in two of her English classes, with a total of 48 students. She said in her report to the foundation that the students in the classes represent a diverse mix of students, with “different academic abilities, race and socio-economic levels.”

Straub said the experiment also would help better prepare the students for their college experiences.

“The big thing now, if we don’t embrace this, is, we’re not preparing our kids for college,” she said. “So many colleges are going online. We have to embrace it now. If not, we are not preparing our kids for the next step in the educational process.”

She said she’s excited to start the project, perhaps getting the computers as early as mid-January.

“I think it’s going to be fun, and it’s going to be good to get the kids excited,” she said.

Creating A Paperless Law School
January 22, 2010, 4:12 am
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Bulky textbooks could soon be replaced by electronic casebooks


It may be just a matter of time before law school students can shed their bulky books and carry them in digital form in a handheld device.

Professors and publishing executives met earlier this month in Seattle to discuss how legal casebooks could be made available electronically on a widespread basis, particularly on new instruments such as Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader.

Those attending the event said electronic casebooks would lighten a student’s heavy load and allow professors to customize the materials they require in their courses.

Inherent in the discussion, however, are concerns about copyrights and the ability to protect electronic casebooks from piracy. Others note that devices such as Kindle and Sony Reader, while applicable for leisure reading, do not allow users to highlight or write notes in the same way they would with a traditional casebook.

Yale Professor Ian Ayres, who did not attend the workshop, said he has yet to see a significant movement toward e-books on his campus, but he noted, “There’s a large demand on the student side…I think it’s something that’s ripe for the future.”

Ayres, a proponent of the electronic movement, has long criticized the cost of traditional textbooks and said that e-books would create more competitive prices for materials while being environmentally friendly. “Professors don’t bear the costs of books they assign and many don’t even know the costs of those books,” he said.

The session in Seattle was organized by Edward L. Rubin, dean of Vanderbilt University Law School; Ronald K.L. Collins, scholar in the Washington office of the First Amendment Center; and Dean Kellye Testy and Professor David Skover of Seattle University School of Law.

“The purpose of the workshop is to help develop a new generation of law school course books,” said Collins. “The real shift in legal education will occur when we move away from these tomes called law school casebooks to e-books, which are databases in cyberspace where materials are downloaded onto electronic readers.”

Kindle, which is sold through Inc., already offers some legal titles.

And West, owned by Thomson Reuters, launched its first electronic casebook, “Civil Procedure: A Contemporary Approach,” by A. Benjamin Spencer, last year, said Chris Parton, vice president of academic publishing at West.

Next year, West plans to add six more titles.

Going Paperless

Collins said he expects that in three to five years, “this could be the reality,” and “the books that law students are carrying around now would be a thing of the past.”

Much of the push for electronic casebooks is coming from law professors who want more control over the materials they use in their classrooms. Ayres already is moving in this direction by going paperless in some of his Yale courses and using PDFs of articles rather than books.

Jorge Durga, a representative on the Student Bar Association at the University of Connecticut School of Law, said some of his courses use PDF materials and he has largely gone paperless with his note-taking after struggling to keep up with professors using pen and paper. “It definitely makes the transfer of information a lot easier,” Colon said of working with digital materials.

Matthew Bodie, associate professor at Saint Louis University School of Law, who attended the Seattle workshop, said publishers should steer clear of simply making existing casebooks available electronically as they are. Instead, they should consider open source software, which would let professors make their own modifications electronically to a casebook.

He said “different professors would use it to mix and match to create their own casebooks. It would all be free and open and there wouldn’t be any copyright claims.”

But the conversion to electronic casebooks continues to present challenges.

“The devices are still very much primitive,” said Gene Koo, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. “If you look at the physical size of a normal law school casebook and Kindle, you’ll see a huge difference. When I was in law school, I scribbled the hell out of my casebook. That’s much harder to do in the Kindle.” •

The Classroom of Tomorrow
January 22, 2010, 4:09 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Classroom of Tomorrow, Today

Technological innovations are bringing a new set of learning tools and new standards to K-12 schools across the country

By Douglas MacMillan

As students settle into the new school year, they’re being greeted by a host of machines and technologies that are revolutionizing the way teachers teach and pupils learn. Chalkboards are being replaced by giant interactive screens, kids are taking virtual field trips to far-flung locales via video conferencing, and they’re trading their Trapper Keepers Hanuman for iBooks.

The following list provides a glimpse of 10 of the biggest high-tech classroom breakthroughs. Prices listed give a general idea of costs-though in almost all cases schools, districts, or whole states are able to negotiate package deals that involve lower prices on a per-student or per-classroom basis.

Read the story

Paperless School Environment
January 22, 2010, 4:07 am
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Click to enlarge

Nightmarish thoughts of lugging your school bag that weighed almost a ton are finally exorcised. The Vail Unified School District, Arizona, will return to the state’s first wireless and all-laptop high school. Pen and paper are scrapped in favor of electronic and online articles.

To go about implementing this plan, the Empire High School will loan out $850.00 laptops to students for the duration of the entire school year, targeting an eventual increase to 750. According to The Associated Press, a set of textbooks will set one back between $500.00 to $600.00.

According to Mark Schneiderman, “e-schools” are rare due to cost, insecurity, ignorance, and institutional issues that come in the way of an all-wireless classroom. It has been observed that a new environment like this will likely spur the students to do better than their counterparts at non-laptop schools.

8 Tips for Going Paperless
January 22, 2010, 4:03 am
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8 Tips for Going Paperless

By Sheila Riley

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Schools and paperwork go hand-in-hand, but the good news is that there are alternatives to overflowing file cabinets. Ray Jaksa, chief technology officer for the 28,000-student Mansfield Independent District in Mansfield, Texas, and Bob Moore, executive director of information technology services for the 20,000-student Blue Valley Unified School District 229 in Overland Park, Kansas, offer their suggestions.

Get the school board to commit to a Web page as a communication tool for parents, students, and teachers.

Mansfield district staff had been copying and delivering 500 to 800 pages of monthly meeting information to 20 people. It didn’t take much effort to convince board members that there was a better way, Jaksa says.

In order to go paperless, Mansfield launched an Intranet using a Sun Cobalt server. All paperwork, including budget and personnel forms, bell schedules, and campus and district policies, exists on the Intranet. Employees have access to it, and next year, parents and students will, too.

Consider a variety of solutions.

Districts can buy an “off the shelf” product; work with a vendor to design a product; or some combination of the two.

Blue Valley uses Perceptive Software’s ImageNow to manage old resource records, and some student and financial records.

For registration and tracking of professional development for certified and classified employees, the district uses MyLearningPlan

But the district went another route for its curriculum management system, working with AllofE Solutions to custom-develop a product it could use.

In all of these initiatives Blue Valley’s goals were to handle information more efficiently, make information sharing easier, and save space. They weren’t as concerned with a return on investment as they were with improving operational effectiveness, Moore says.

Think PDF.

Jaksa advises putting everything from individual school information and forms to school maps and newsletters in PDF format, which is compatible with any computer. Users can enter the information directly onto the PDF, and then it can be sent to be a database.

Just starting the process? Pick one department to go paperless.

Mansfield chose special education, which requires an extensive amount of paperwork. The district had 75 cabinets that held records for 2,000 special needs students.

The district uses two standalone high-speed scanners and software from Océ ( to create PDFs. This allows any documents or records to be added to the systems in just a few minutes. Data—from meeting minutes to student handwriting samples—is scanned and automatically sent to a student folder.

When a student leaves the district, the folder can be e-mailed or faxed to their new school within minutes. It used to take as long as two weeks to collect all the paper and send it, Jaksa says.

Take advantage of new opportunities a paperless system offers.

A system such as Mansfield’s offers particular benefits for special education because it can provide different information than is usually available. Videos of severely handicapped students, for example, can be included in the database, giving a much clearer picture of how students are doing than a written report could. Space can be saved, and information collected in one place and distributed efficiently.

The system is only internal at this point, but Mansfield hopes to offer parental access next year.

When it comes to information access, don’t leave anyone behind.

Probably the biggest challenge is that some employees often aren’t as tech literate as their co-workers, Moore says, or don’t have access to computers in their jobs—custodial staff, for example. Districts should arrange for those employees to get regular computer access or provide information in an alternative format—meaning paper.

Set realistic goals.

Remember, you can probably only convert one department a year because it’s so time-consuming, Jaksa says. But once there’s a plan for designing workflow, you can use it for every department.

This year Mansfield ISD’s English as a Second Language department is going paperless. All forms previously in ten file cabinets have been copied to searchable PDF formats with an electronic folder for every student.

Just like special education, the ESL conversion process paid for itself in 12 months, Jaksa says. It resulted in a $75,000 savings— the salaries of four clerical employees who were no longer needed.

Set the right example.

Those at the top should lead the charge and provide models of going paperless. Eliminate paper communications, and meeting agendas and minutes. Set the expectation that every department should be on the lookout for ways to go paperless, Moore says.

Sheila Riley is a San Francisco–based freelancer who also writes for EE Times and Investor’s Business Daily.

Paper Trail
January 22, 2010, 4:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Helping schools become efficient through software innovations.


Technology is changing constantly and is a critical component of education management.

Education institutions have become increasingly aware of ways to save energy, protect the environment and reduce their carbon footprint. Moreover, the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable building design and construction, has witnessed a huge increase in the number of schools interested in going green. Lighting a classroom, shipping and creating products, fueling buses and photocopying paper all contribute to a school’s carbon footprint.

Many schools are committing to use technology to help them create a “paperless office.” New administrative software can significantly reduce a school’s carbon footprint. A paperless office is environmentally friendly, saves time and money, and improves day-to-day efficiency.


Where to start

By working smarter to make computers work harder, an education institution can significantly reduce the amount of paper it uses. The average school would save about 5,000 sheets of paper (or one box at about $45) per user each year. Maximizing the use of an administrative software program can help eliminate paper, storage, postage, ink and numerous other supplies.

To begin the process, start analyzing the efficiencies that finance-management software can deliver. Many applications can automate a number of manual administrative processes and eliminate redundancies in staff responsibilities. Software often is customizable to meet specific report requirements and create user-specific security access. Look for capabilities that enable users to budget, monitor and control finances effectively. Search for software with a range of features such as managing grant reporting, controlling the creation of financial reports, and creating a budget from requisitions.

By working on only one database for finance, payroll and personnel, human resources can be accomplished quickly and seamlessly. Look for user-profile records that enable the system to be tailored to a school’s specific requirements. Features such as multiple payroll cycles for regular, recurring and one-time additional pay components can process salaried and unit-paid employees in a single payroll run. Automatic leave accrual and attendance tracking is another great feature that monitors absence trends for employees.

Using software that incorporates accounting, budgeting and payroll eliminates redundant input. Look for features such as auditing trails of all transactions, comprehensive reporting capabilities, budget-creation tools, and the ability to process W-2s and 1099s. Handling such sensitive information, a software application should have security capabilities that enable users’ access to be dictated by their logon information. In turn, staff members can gain access to only the applications, menus, programs and functions appropriate for their position.

Converting documents into PDF files is another way to initiate the paperless process. Start by scanning files from accounting, finance and human resources. Scanned images and PDFs then can be stored in the software’s database and attached to specific records. E-mailing electronic PDFs rather than sending documents by mail can save hundreds of hours in time and dollars in postage. Storing reports as PDF images also can make them easier to find and retrieve.


Saving resources

Managing documents in a traditional paper environment can be time-consuming. It tends to pull staff away from projects and occupies their time with less important tasks such as searching through files, looking for lost documents, faxing, copying and mailing. If it takes five minutes to retrieve or replace a paper file, and if one employee works with 10 paper files a day, about 216 hours a year are spent searching through files — an equivalent to five weeks of work time. If the employee is paid $20 an hour, you can instantly cut a cost of $4,320 a year. And, what about the cost of paper folders that are misfiled or lost?