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Tech Industry

Giving schools a better forecast on tech

A Maryland-based company that supplies weather data and analysis to various outlets is now helping states determine technology spending plans for public schools.

A company that owns a big network of weather stations around the world has lined up several states to take part in a new service that tracks the use of technology in U.S. public schools.

AWS Convergence Technologies is a Gaithersburg, Md.-based company that provides weather data and analysis to outlets such as energy companies and television stations. The company is probably best known for its network of weather centers that are run out of schools.

But the company's idea to develop the technology-tracking program was somewhat hatched out of necessity after Chief Executive Bob Marshall chaired a Maryland state committee on technology and education about three years ago.

"We had finished developing the plan and, as we were trying to determine how schools were doing, all we had was data collected with paper and pencil," he said. "It would have taken 18 months just to get the data to the committee. We had no means of getting a handle on the data."

So Marshall asked his company to come up with a software program to help. The result, OnTarget, is now available to help every state track the use of technology in their public schools. Marshall said the company has about a dozen states on board.

The program allows school officials to log in to a secure Web site to enter specific school data. The software, which runs on a Microsoft SQL database, then aggregates the data to produce reports on a districtwide or statewide basis.

"It is providing us with valuable, real-time data regarding the progress we have made in the implementation and use of technology in Mississippi schools, as well as being used as a baseline for establishing our goals and benchmarks for our new state technology plan," said Helen Soule, director of education technology training and support for the state of Mississippi.

Marshall said the data is also useful in pinpointing exactly where money needs to be spent.

"We found that schools literally across the street had significant differences in technology levels," Marshall said. "At one school you would have a 5-to-1 student-to-computer ratio, and at another you had a 100-to-1 ratio. We were able to target funding much more effectively."