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New York City
April 2002

BOE Builds Online Educational Community
By Marylena Mantas

As a result of a recommendation made in September of 2001 by the Teaching and Learning in Cyberspace Taskforce, established by the New York City Board of Education (BOE), the public school system’s students, parents, and teachers will soon belong and have access to an Online Educational Community.

“This unprecedented initiative will connect all of our students, teachers, parents and administrators, to advanced Internet services anywhere, any time,” said William C. Thompson, Jr., President of the Board of Education, in a statement released recently. “It would fundamentally transform the teaching and learning experience. Students will enhance their learning abilities, teachers’ capacity to facilitate learning styles will improve and there will be stronger ties among all members of the Board’s community.”

Established in July of 1999, the Taskforce, chaired by Dr. Irving S. Hamer Jr., has been working to integrate technology into instruction and to find the means to provide equal access to the vast pool of information made available these days through the internet to the school system’s 1.1 million children and 80,000 teachers.

“This is not a divide of equipment,” said Hamer, while speaking to Education Update on the question of the digital divide, “but a divide of content…The question is how we give this information to everyone in the city.”

Hamer and other members of the Board and Taskforce hope that the educational portal will not only help alleviate the divide problem, but will also “engage parents in their children’s education through the use of technology, give teachers the tools to move their classrooms into the 21st century, introduce students to active learning and the vast instructional resources of the internet and involve the larger community in the educational success of every child.”

According to Hamer, the Online Educational Community will have two components: an educational zone and a commercial zone. The latter zone will allow for the forging of partnerships with online companies, advertising and e-commerce, which will turn generate the funding necessary to support the project. The commercial zone will be available to the adult users, while everyone will have access to the educational zone.

“The only way this will work is to create a different funding model,” said Hamer. “The commercial side of the portal for adults, if properly managed, will help us pay for this.”

The educational zone will provide students and teachers with educational resources to enhance teaching and learning, such as links to websites of pedagogical nature and content. It will give parents access to the same tools and up-to-date information related to the school system. Also, the Online Community is expected to open the lines of communication between the city’s communities and the educational system.

In addition, the website will help foster professional development and alleviate some of the existing constraints related to the process, such as cost and inability of teachers to participate in professional development seminars and workshops due to lack to time. The professional development project hopes to enhance existing teaching practices and to support all teachers, particularly new teachers in greater need of these resources. Classroom Content was awarded the contract to build the site, currently under development, which will give teachers access to professional development at all times, while receiving continuing education credit. The site is expected to be launched in September of 2002.

“This is a new way of thinking about how to teach and train supervisors and administrators online,” said Hamer.

The BOE has selected two vendors, Accenture and KPMG, as finalists. The vendor selected will build the portal Online Educational Community, which will be available seven days a week and 24 hours a day. The Taskforce hopes that the website will provide all BOE members with an email address and access to the internet.

“The oxygen for the initiative is the pedagogical framework for teaching and learning that is full of revolutionary potential,” said Hamer in a recent presentation.#


Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: ednews1@aol.com.
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