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The New Technology Foundation used IBM solutions to move from a distributed computing environment to a centralized computing environment.

The New Technology Foundation used IBM solutions to move from a distributed computing environment to a centralized computing environment.
The New Technology Foundation brings its member-school students into the 21st century.

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CUSTOMER: The New Technology Foundation
HEADQUARTERS: Napa, Calif.
BUSINESS: Nonprofit organizations spearheading new, technology-driven forms of education
HARDWARE: Two IBM System p 560s, a System p 520, two System p 505s
SOFTWARE: WebSphere Portal Server, WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere Edge Server, IBM DB2, Lotus Domino Server and Lotus Sametime
CHALLENGE: Moving from a decentralized computing environment to a centralized computing environment
SOLUTION: Having Sungard host a bevy of System p and Windows servers and using Alacrinet Consulting Services to Web enable its applications

Back when I was in high school (lo those many years ago), computers were unavailable to help us learn. It was all chalkboard- and paper-based, with teachers scribbling furiously on their big green boards, and students—or those so inclined to do so (I wasn’t one of them)—equally as furiously writing down notes in the spiral-bound notebooks.

Nowadays, kids more often than not have at least one computer at home, although maybe not for educational purposes. When they’re not playing Grand Theft Auto, they’re on MySpace and Facebook, communicating with their friends without actually speaking with them—unless they’re on the cell phones, in which case they may still not be speaking with them. (Text messaging is the new stone tablet.)

However, many schools still lack the computer technology these same kids have become so familiar with during their off hours. As a result, they’re using 20th-century learning tools and techniques in a high-tech 21st-century society. This is creating a disconnect between the world in which these young people work and play and the one in which they’re learning.

That’s why the New Technology Foundation (NTF) was established. Its goal is to help both high-school students and teachers use technology in new and innovative ways to create social networking-like collaborative learning environments. As with any such undertaking, especially given as large as it’s become, some hurdles had to be overcome before NTF could truly fulfill its mission.

Thanks to consolidating a once distributed-computing environment onto a series of IBM System p* servers and deploying the IBM WebSphere* Portal and some handcrafted Java* technology-based applications, the organization is more than meeting the needs of its students and teachers. In fact, it’s been an educational experience for everyone involved.

Traditional High School

The Napa, Calif.-based NTF was founded in 1999 as a nonprofit to help reinvent the national education system. “Business people in Napa felt that high schools weren’t preparing kids for the real world,” Marykay Michaels, NTF CIO, explains. “They weren’t graduating knowing how to use technology as a tool in business. So the community members got permission from Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) to start a small school that would be different. Since then, the model has begun to spread.”

In fact, NTF now has 42-plus schools representing an approximate 10,000 students and 1,000 staff that have modeled their programs after the New Technology High School (NTHS) (the original Napa-based school) and its Project-Based Learning (PBL) Approach. The NTHS PBL offers member schools the best practices it has cultivated—and continues to do so—over the course of its existence and encourages these member schools to share best practices, as well as standards-based curricular materials, assessments and tools available via the PBL Library.

“We don’t run the schools. We just help them change.” —Marykay Michaels, CIO, NTF

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at jjutsler@provide.net.


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The New Technology Foundation used IBM solutions to move from a distributed computing environment to a centralized computing environment.

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