High-tech tools for schools

At Park View High School in Sterling, Va., ninth-grade students will soon have a multimedia “highway” room as a result of a grant the school won from America Online for a little more than $16,000. The room — aimed at inspiring students’ ultimate careers — will include a stage, sound board and mixer, video wall and new computers. Teachers will receive training for room use, which could include speeches or debates, after-school tutoring, multimedia presentations or adding to a schoolwide CD of music and poetry.

Andrea Smith, the ninth-grade team leader who wrote the grant proposal, said teaching with technology shouldn’t be seen as a “trend,” but rather as “a logical step for the times in which we live.”

Many interactive computer programs offer one-one-one tutoring in reading, science and other subjects. About 5,000 schools across the country use Soliloquy Learning’s Reading Assistant, a software program that listens to the child read aloud, corrects when a word is bungled, reads back to the child if needed and collects real-time information for the teacher.

Still, many tech hurdles exist. Mr. Wheeler said access to it clearly varies with the wealth of the school district, and many school systems who have it still haven’t set up adequate career development for teachers to harness it.

And Jon Bower, CEO of Soliloquy Learning, said schools typically don’t invest enough in technical support, which causes problems. In the business world, about one-third of technology money is spent on tech support and training, he said, but schools usually only spend about 5 percent of their tech budget on that.

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