Microsoft Web Site Aims To Connect, Train Teachers: The back-to-school season is also the season of new educational services and products. Starting Oct. 1, the Microsoft Corp. will launch a Web site that is designed to become an online community to support teachers in using technology in the classroom.
Called the Microsoft Classroom Teacher Network, it will be a place where educators can take part in online seminars, share lesson plans, present links to other resources on the World Wide Web, and participate in hosted discussion forums, according to Bob Herbold, the chief operating officer of the Redmond, Wash.-based company. Microsoft unveiled the network in a press telephone briefing last month.
"Teachers face a challenge the rest of us don't: They are learning to use technology for personal productivity, but also as a teaching tool to empower students," Mr. Herbold said. "That's a huge challenge to educators and schools of education.
He cited a federal survey that found that only one in five teachers believe they are very well prepared to teach in a modern classroom with technology.
Sue Spava, an official on Microsoft's education team, said the Web site would offer a "new teacher corner," where teachers can interact with one another and seek mentors. A classroom corner will feature online presentations on how learning can be enhanced by technologies such as e-mail, along with an archive of projects submitted by teachers. A training section will present information on a variety of topics, including Internet security and research on the impact of technology on learning.
The site will also offer free curriculum resources, software tutorials, and online tutorials.
Microsoft officials said a core group of users would be the 3,000 teachers in 11 states who took part in the company's technology-training institutes this past summer.
At the press briefing, Lynn Humbert, a teacher at Dakota High School in the Federal Way district in Washington state, said computers were introduced into her school's classrooms within the past five years. "We have computers in the schools, but don't use them because we don't have the training," she said.
Ms. Humbert, who attended a teacher-training institute over the summer said, "I'm a novice, but just beginning to do presentations--but it's still pretty basic."
Ms. Spava said school administrators would also be welcome at the Web site. "Though it is the Classroom Teacher Network, we believe a lot of the information there, and a lot of topics discussed, will be really at the district level."
Mr. Herbold also announced that Microsoft would contribute $26.6 million in software and cash to teacher-training programs through next August.
For more information, visit the Microsoft Web site at www.microsoft.com/education/k12/classroom/ctn.htm.
Apple's iBook: Apple Computer Inc., the former heavyweight champ in education and still a major provider of school computers, is trying to regain its title with the iBook, a notebook-sized computer that is also offered for the consumer market.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based company designed the iBook, which comes in a specially priced and equipped version for schools, to give educators the capacity for "anywhere, anytime" learning.
Apple said the iBook distinguishes itself by more than the blueberry and tangerine colors of its body--candy colors that are reminiscent of the iMac, the popular desktop computer that has revived interest in the Apple brand.
It is slim, but with a sharp color screen and a full-sized keyboard, in a body shaped to fit easily into a backpack.
The rubber and polycarbonate-plastic body is tough enough to give the machine a solid bump without breaking it, said David Russell, Apple's product manager for the iBook.
"We don't promote it as something you drop off a school desk," he added, noting that rubber feet underneath help keep it from sliding off a table.
The machine's rechargeable battery has a long enough life--six hours of typical use--to last through a school day, he said.
Inside a flip-out carrying handle is an aluminum rod that would let schools secure a stack of iBooks with a bicycle cable. Naturally enough, Apple hopes schools will buy sets of the machines that could be used by multiple classes.
They can be connected to each other and to the Internet through a high-speed wireless network.
Though the company isn't emphasizing the fact, the new machine is an heir to the Apple eMate 300, a rugged, low-cost portable computer for schools that delighted educators when it was introduced in fall 1996. Many of those educators were angered when Apple, struggling for its corporate survival, dropped the eMate just 16 months later.
The iBook is much more capable than the eMate in every respect except battery life; the earlier machine could operate for 28 hours without recharging. The new machine, priced for schools at $1,499, is about twice as expensive as the eMate's 1997 price.
Mr. Russell, who was one of the developers of the eMate, underscored that the iBook runs the latest, full-featured Macintosh operating system, not the underpowered Newton operating system of its predecessor.
But some of the uses the company is promoting for schools, such as browsing the Web, taking notes, and using the machines to collect data with scientific probes, are functions that the eMate performed handily.
Vol. 19, Issue 2, Page 7