So much energy has been devoted in recent years to connecting schools to the Internet, and keeping score of which are and the few that still aren't, that it is easy for districts to lose sight of the bigger picture. "For these connections to truly make a difference, teachers must be trained and students must have access to quality educational content," says John Bailey, director of the federal Department of Education's office of educational technology.
Equipping educators with up-to-date information is a huge task and a moving target. New material is added to the Web at the rate of 25 pages every second, according to Nancy Willard of the Responsible Netizen Institute. It would take 750 people working 24 hours a day seven days a week just to keep up with developments. "It is easy for educators to rely on a few familiar sites--usually those recommended by a nearby colleague--if they aren't aware that superior online curriculum models and applications exist," says Conrad Berdeen, principal of the Buffer School in Avon, Mass.
THE INDUSTRY MOVES FORWARD
The Curriculum Web Site Awards were launched in 1998 to identify exemplary K-12 online curriculum material in every content area. The competition includes free and subscription-based sites. In the course of reviewing more than 800 education-related sites, the following trends are apparent:
* The best education sites continue to get better, and many online curriculum leaders have added new options and expanded into new areas. Last year the magazine established a Hall of Fame to recognize continuing superior achievement, and this year inducted six new honorees.
* Key companies extended their reach with acquisitions. For example, Plato Learning acquired Netschools and its Orion online curriculum product; Pearson Education added the resources of the Family Education Network; and Scantron acquired EdVision, developer of online assessment tools.
* There was continued growth in cooperative partnerships with developers of specialized online content. For example, Nationalgeographic.com signed a multi-year deal with Encyclopaedia Britannica to add the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia to its Homework Help site, and AOL@School established more than 30 partnerships with companies including Apex Learning, BoxerLearning and Riverdeep.
* Growing numbers of companies committed to delivering high-bandwidth multimedia content. AIMS Multimedia established DigitalCurriculum.com as "a true video-on-demand system providing instant access to nearly 20,000 full video programs," says company President David Sherman.
* Most sites added features beyond curriculum products to attract potential users and contribute to the education community. "Through our new section called Educator Resources, we provide critical information about education technology, funding resources, best practices and research studies, and will continue to enhance this section," says Ileana Rowe, marketing manager of Learning.com.
* Increasing numbers of companies provide professional development options through their sites. "This coming year [we plan to] integrate online professional development content with our face-to-face staff development programs," says Pat Harrigan, CEO of Classroom Connect.
* Several companies now offer online projects that engage learners in longer-term activities.
American Memory Memory.loc.gov
American Memory, maintained by the Library of Congress, is an online gateway to unique primary source materials that relate to the history and culture of the United States. The site offers seven million digital items including manuscripts, sheet music, photographs, films and sound recordings, that are organized in more than 100 collections, such as Civil War Photographs, History of the American West, and Voices from the Dustbowl. The searchable content areas include economics, geography, social sciences and technology. …