This site clearly recognizes that school administrators are busy people who don’t have the time to surf the Internet indiscriminately for answers to their problems. It is a one-stop shop of content, expert advice, and interactive tools designed to solve problems or at least point ed. tech. leaders in the right direction. It includes numerous articles on a host of topics, such as relevant research on technology’s impact on education, what data-driven organizations look like, how to acquire technology through commercial partnerships, the best hand-held technologies for administrators, and how to find, hire, and keep skilled technology professionals. It also offers short profiles of more than 60 ed. tech. leaders, as well as a blog called TBLOGICAL, which has thoughtful but infrequent posts on topics such as multitasking, personalized learning, and the iPhone. One caution: The California Department of Education commissioned the creation of this site to serve the needs of school administrators in its state; as a result, much of the material is California-centric. Even so, ed. tech. leaders in other states would likely find that most of the material addresses their concerns, too.
The International Society for Technology in Education has developed an “island” on Second Life, the 3-D virtual world that allows users to create avatars, or virtual people, to explore places, interact with other people, and share ideas. Iste sees its Second Life outpost as a place to showcase best practices in online learning, for collaboration among educators on ideas and projects, and for professional networking. The site hosts weekly networking socials and topical events and sponsors a twice-monthly speaker series. Since the site is relatively new and it would take some time using it to appreciate its real possibilities, judgments about its usefulness are best left to the reader. But it’s at least worth checking out. It may unleash the computer gamer inside you.
To be sure, there is plenty of material on this site geared toward teaching school leaders how to spin the positive news about their districts. But in today’s high-tech world, having a good public-communication plan has quite a bit to do with how well your district understands the use of new technologies by students and parents, and then figures out how to harness those uses, especially in times of crisis. That’s why this site is worth running your eye over occasionally. A recent article on the site, titled “Online Wildfires: Coping With the Digital Media That Are Rewriting the Rules for Crisis Communication,” recounts how a lockdown at a New Jersey high school prompted intense media coverage and public complaints. Parents were apparently receiving text messages and cellphone calls from their children before school officials could explain what was going on. That was a useful article for school leaders, but the site itself probably could use more material that addresses how new technologies can be used to improve communication with parents and the community.
This site recently launched an online repository of computer science teaching materials, including lesson plans, learning modules, presentations, and course descriptions that might be useful for computer science teachers in your district. All the materials are in a searchable database that can be used to match resources with specific courses and student learning levels. It’s also worth noting that the site has a database to help teachers and administrators access computer science teacher-certification and -endorsement requirements across the country. One caveat: You have to be a CSTA member to use all the features in the databases.
For ed. tech. wonks who appreciate the big picture, it’s worth reading the educational technology page on Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that is continually updated by Internet users from around the world. The definition of educational technology has been revised a number of times, and past versions are available from the site’s archives. The page offers a host of links to entries on issues such as technology integration, multiple-intelligences theory, constructivism and technology, and e-learning. Its list of societies and journals involved in educational technology is a bit thin, however, and could use updating. You might want to consider adding some content to the page.
Compiled by Kevin Bushweller
A version of this article appeared in the September 12, 2007 edition of Digital Directions as Top Picks