This is a summary of an article from Communications News, July 1997, pp. 50-53 by James M. Montgomery, Senior Editor. RETOOLING EDUCATION From the introduction of wide area networking to hs programs that prepare students to be Webmaster, technology is revolutionizing the nature of teaching. Educ is the agent to retool society. Rather than a catalyst for change, educ too often seems like a genie in a bottle, held captive by antiquated teaching methods, inadequate funding, and a lack of understanding of technology's impact on society. if this is the case, who retools educ? Many companies are beginning to offer a broad range of solutions to the educ sector. Some solutions completely retool the infrastructure of a school district, others offer technical educ and certifications, while still others offer Web-based access to educ products and services. These solutions may be coming just in time. Sixty % of today's teachers will be of retirement age by 2000. Judging by demographic trends, we'll need 200,000 more teachers early in the next century. ... NEW NETWORKS BRING ADVANCES Wi-Lan, a wireless systems provider headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, used 20 Hopper Plus wireless bridges to connect 15 schools, a public library, and three admin buildings over an area of about 50 square miles in the province's Medicine hat school district. Doug Pudwell, the school district secretary/treasurer, is happy with the choice after rejecting many alternatives, including fiber optics. "With throughput of 2 Mbps, the wireless WAN gives us 10 times the throughput of ISDN at a fraction of the cost," he reports. In Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, Tut Systems (based in Pleasant Hill, CA) and NW Iowa Telephone have teamed up to provide high-speed DSL (768 kbps) Internet access to every public school in the district. The system utilizes 2B1Q transceivers to support symmetric/full duplex transmission at 1.5 Mbps aggregated throughout. Richard Caldwell, superintendent of Sergeant Bluff-Luton School District, says the system enables the district to "produce maximum utilization of technology through flexible and efficient systems communication, continuity of integrated curriculum and ongoing training for personnel." Florida provides an inter-active Internet system for educators. The Florida Information Resource Network (FIRN) supports more than 30,000K-12 educators. Last year more than 375,000 student transcripts and 1.8 million ACT/SAT test scores were transmitted via the system. In Virginia, Internet service provider InfiNet, GTE Mobilnet, and Wi-Lan are joining forces to bring the natl ClassLink program to classrooms in that state. ClassLink was launched in 1995 after Congress challenged the wireless industry to develop better technology for the educ sector. The program is sponsored by the Cellular Telecommunication Industry Assoc (CTIA) Foundation. By using cellular phones to communicate with other school personnel, CTIA estimates each teacher gains 15 1/2 days of teaching time each year. School officials estimate that the time saved is worth more than $7,000a week per school. NEW TECHNICAL RESOURCES Long a leading provider of networking solutions, Novell began to offer certifications for network professionals a few years ago. The company has gone on to develop a model program for identifying "technology champions" in educ. The Novell Educ Academic Partner (NEAP) program was designed to provide college students and teachers with Novell training and certification. The NEAP-Secondary program brings Novell training and certification to HS students and teachers. Angel Sanchez, administrator for information resources and technology services for the Kern County school district, based in Bakersfield, CA, sees programs like Novell's as a way of positioning educ as a lifelong learning process not confined by city blocks or classroom walls, the "shop classes" of the 21st century. He supports programs that promote skills developed locally but marketable worldwide. Many companies are taking advantage of the Internet or wide area networks to make educ products and services available. Computer Curr Corp maintains a Web site (http:www.cccnet.com) where students can participate in interactive learning projects." Computer PREP has developed a product called PREPWeb@ssessor, a Web-based tool that allows educators to author, manage, deliver and analyze training packages and skill assessment over the Internet (or intranet). Developers prepare test instruments through an intuitive "point-and -click" interface. Finally, if the interactive computer course you've dreamed of isn't already on your server, or available in retail stores, try building it yourself. You can with Course Builder, an authoring tool from Discovery Systems Internatl. Ideal for educators, this application provides control over the design, development and creation of course materials at a level of sophistication new to non-programmers.