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Event highlights tech projects funded by SBC Ameritech Learning Initiative

Several innovative technology projects targeted for business and education that are funded through the SBC Ameritech Learning Initiative were highlighted at a celebration luncheon Nov. 15.
Jack Williamson of the SoAD project and Martin
Thomas of Flint Community Schools listen to Gail Torreano, president of SBC Ameritech-Michigan.
(Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)

The event marked the beginning of the fifth and final year of an SBC Ameritech grant that has provided the University with $1.5 million over a five-year period and offered an opportunity for SBC Ameritech representatives, University researchers and others to come together and learn about the projects the grant funds.

"The SBC Ameritech Learning Initiative grant has played a critical role in helping to advance teaching and learning technology on the Michigan campuses, in the K-12 arena and in the University's interactions with the small business community in Michigan," said James Hilton, associate provost for Academic, Information and Instructional Technology Affairs. "With the help of this important and generous grant, the University, working with our community partners, has learned how to apply, more effectively, information technology to the 'business' of teaching and learning. The more we experiment and progress, the more opportunities we see for improvements and new technologies."

Gail Torreano, president of SBC Ameritech-Michigan, commented on the organization's tradition of community service and philanthropy, and the ways that the U-M grant represents those values.

Projects that were presented include:

U-M–Flint: Improving High-Technology in K-12 Flint Area Schools and Small Business Community. Project director: Vahid Lofti, associate provost and professor of management, U-M–Flint. This project focuses on the U-M–Flint School of Management's work with area K-12 schools and nonprofit agencies. Middle and high school students trained as computer system specialists are helping local nonprofits harness the power of the Web. They also are teaching their teachers how to use information technology and fix computers.

U-M–Ann Arbor: Next Generation On-line Course Technologies and Research Collaboration Tools. Project director: Joseph Hardin, deputy director, Media Union, director of systems development and operations, School of Information. This is a description of the next generation of online course technologies and research collaboration tools that are being developed at the Media Union on the Ann Arbor campus. Two of these tools, CourseTools.NextGeneration and WorkTools.NextGeneration, follow the successful current versions of CourseTools and WorkTools and will be the foundations for the future of online
learning and research support at the University. These tools are being built in CHEF (Comprehensive Collaborative Framework), an advanced framework for building collaborative systems, and are part of a larger effort to provide standards-based, open source systems to the higher education community. Visit

U-M–Ann Arbor: School of Art & Design (SoAD) SBC Ameritech DesignInBiz Project. Project director: Jack Williamson, lecturer, SoAD. The project is a comprehensive DesignInBiz Web site, created by SoAD and underwritten by an SBC Foundation grant. The site not only provides critical information on the use of design as a strategic tool for small businesses, but actively engages design professionals, small business managers and design students in ongoing design dialogues and constructive criticism of student design projects. Visit

U-M–Dearborn: E-100 course, "Introduction to Engineering and Computers." Project directors: M. Shridhar, professor and chair, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, College of Engineering and Computer Science; Paul Watta, assistant professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, College of Engineering and Computer Science, U-M­Dearborn. The project is a demonstration of the Web site for the "Introduction to Engineering" course offered at the Dearborn campus. The site, reproduced on a CD-ROM for those who don't have Web access, contains all the course materials needed, including lecture notes, laboratory experiments, assignments and practice problems. For students who need to brush up on their prerequisite skills and knowledge, the site contains tutorials and links to other related sites.

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