Local Technology News

Leelanau County now on line with "A Child is Missing" Program

LEELANAU – Emergency management and law enforcement services in Leelanau County have joined A Child Is Missing (ACIM), a program based in Florida that utilizes a nationwide database and high-speed technology to search for and recover missing children, the elderly (Alzheimer's and dementia patients) and endangered or disabled individuals.

It works like this: Once a missing person is reported, the service immediately locates the county information and, using satellite mapping, targets a calling area based on where the missing person was last seen.

A recorded message that conveys details about the missing person is immediately sent out to residents and businesses – at a rate of up to 1,000 calls per minute – asking them to help in the search by checking their premises.

Currently, the program's database only includes telephone numbers from local phonebooks; emergency management is urging all residents to register with the program – particularly people with unlisted phone numbers or cell phone-only users. (Register online at achildismissing.org.) The service is fast and free, says Tom Skowronski, director of the county's Emergency Management, "and especially important with the winter weather coming on," he says. "When it comes to finding a missing person, time is of the essence."

TBAISD STUDENTS USING THEIR "MOODLE"

REGION – Technology is driving Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District's (TBAISD) ambitious Grand ReImagine Project, a five-county initiative to make TBAISD "the best education system in the world."

Key to the technology already implemented is a software program called Moodle, already in use in universities around the country.

TBAISD is using Moodle to give students 24/7 access to a virtual classroom and allow them to complete lessons anywhere they have access to the Internet. Moodle enables students to engage in online discussions with teachers and other students, post video clips, complete assignments, and more.

The technology is proving itself useful. Currently, a student in Kingsley who is unable to go to school is using Moodle. Because of the software she is able to keep up with her classmates and is on track to get her degree, something that would not have been possible before.

Parents also have access to the site, which allows them to be actively involved in their child's education – a requirement of the Grand ReImagine Project.

Ty Wessell, an instructional services consultant for TBAISD, says, "This project really goes beyond the classroom and changes general thoughts of what education is."

On the horizon: TBAISD is looking into technology that would make virtual fieldtrips possible, saving cash-strapped school districts money on transportation costs.

Another vital aspect of the ReImagine Project is the creation of Individual Learning Plans for every student. Rather than rely upon standardized testing and create blanket learning plans for classrooms or grade levels as a whole, TBAISD is starting to chart each student's progress throughout their educational career, from kindergarten to 12th grade, and then use sophisticated software to analyze and apply that data. Teachers, who will have access to each child's information, can then format educational strategies for each student.

"This is really exciting and improves our ability to track student progress with our data systems. We've always had data," says Wessel, "but now we have the ability to make sense out of it."

Salamander Software Wows Homeland Security

CHICAGO – A local software-solutions provider recently captured the attention of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano during a massive mutual-aid training exercise in Chicago. Traverse City-based Salamander Technologies provided automated tracking solutions for the event, which was organized by the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) of Illinois.

During the timed demonstration, more than 900 firefighters and nearly 300 emergency vehicles from four states were successfully checked in, identified, credentialed and deployed in less than 90 minutes – thanks in large part to Salamander Technologies' sophisticated software that creates high-capacity ID tags, electronic command boards, and provides off-site data sharing via the Web. Napolitano – along with hundreds of fire chiefs from around the world – viewed the exercise via closed-captioned TV at Chicago's McCormick Place.

Salamander's technology performed without a hitch, but company Vice President Mike Whelan is quick to point out an even larger success of the event: "In today's volatile world, natural and manmade disasters are inevitable. This exercise proved that by giving people the tools to work together, they can prevail."

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