Grant Awards

AWARDS

$60 million from U.S. Department of Education

For the 21st Century Community Learning Center program, which enables schools to create or expand safe, productive after-school programs for children, $60 million to 183 communities in 45 states. The grants range in size from $36,000 to $2.5 million per year for up to three years. Schools can use the money to establish, among other things, after-school technology education programs in their communities.

(800) USA-LEARN

http://www.ed.gov/offices/OERI/21stCCLC

$150,000 from National Science Foundation

To assess the professional development needs of teachers, review learning resources, and develop plans for improving high school math and technology programs, a $150,000 planning grant to the D.C. Public Schools.

(703) 306-1234

http://www.nsf.gov

$100,000 from Schools of the 21st Century

To establish a model for school reform, $100,000 to a “constellation” of schools around Detroit’s Southeastern High School. The grant will help the schools identify common needs, analyze data, and form a plan for working together. Schools of the 21st Century, a public-private education reform group, was formed in 1996 with a $60 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation to improve Detroit schools.

(313) 871-3515

http://www.s21c-detroit.org

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Newslines–Schools can publish online newspapers for free with Highwired.Net

Highwired.Net, a company in Cambridge, Mass., is making headlines across the country–or at least helping student journalists make them–by offering an online student newspaper service to schools.

The service, which lets student journalists post their stories to a custom-designed site hosted by Highwired, requires no special software or HTML training, only an internet connection. Best of all, it’s free to users.

“Journalism teachers are already overworked and pressed for time,” said Matt Flaherty, co-founder of the company. “And current online publishing tools take too much time to learn. With Highwired, a school can produce an online version of its newspaper in seconds, leaving more time to focus on the writing and editing process.”

More than 450 schools have signed up with Highwired since the company launched in January. The service’s key feature is its simplicity, Flaherty said.

Highwired.Net can be found at: http://www.highwired.net

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Schools failing to engage girls in technology, study finds

Although girls are beginning to show more of an interest in math and science–areas where boys usually dominate academically and vocationally–they are falling behind in technology, a new study shows.

It concludes that fewer girls are engaged in technology to the extent of their male peers, worsening their chances for success in the work place. And it’s the nation’s schools, the report charges, that have failed to prepare girls for the jobs of tomorrow.

But girls are taking more math and science classes than they were six years ago, said the report, released Oct. 15 by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). In these classrooms, girls are typically outnumbered by boys.

When it comes to technology, girls are not only taking fewer classes than boys, they’re also less apt to use computers as problem-solving and discovery tools. That means that girls won’t have a competitive edge when it comes to applying for jobs in the future–about 65 percent of which will require technical know-how, according to Janice Weinman, executive director of AAUW.

“It is a national wake-up call for schools, ” Weinman told eSchool News. And, she said, it’s up to the nation’s schools to start doing a better job engaging girls in technology.

You can find the report at the web site of the American Association of University Women: http://www.aauw.org

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Newslines–ACT matches SAT with its new web-based college services

On Oct. 8, the nonprofit ACT Inc.–best-known for its college-entrance assessment tests–announced a partnership with CollegeNET to provide a web-based college application service called C3. The College Board, publishers of the Scholastic Assessment Tests (SAT), announced a similar pact with another application service earlier this year.

According to Richard L. Ferguson, president of ACT, the alliance combines ACT’s college outreach and information services with CollegeNET’s technology to create a one-stop shop for high school students and guidance counselors on the internet.

“Improved service to students is our primary goal,” Ferguson said. “Students will be able to retrieve information about any college or university in the nation, estimate their financial need, register for their ACT test, and apply to any participating college or university–and all from the same location on the web.”

The ACT Assessment is taken by more than 1.7 million students each year, according to the nonprofit company. It is used by more than 3,000 colleges and universities to assess students’ abilities. ACT also provides a searchable database containing information on every college in the country as well as grants, loans, and financial aid.

CollegeNET, a Portland, Ore., company launched in 1995, says it is unique among web-based college application services, because it reproduces a participating college’s own application online, just as that application would appear if mailed to the student. The service is free to students, though participating colleges must pay a percentage of their application fee to CollegeNET.

The applications reside on CollegeNET’s server and can be accessed seamlessly from a college’s own site, or from the CollegeNET web site itself. CollegeNET electronically transfers the information in the application fields to the participating college and also securely processes electronic payment of the application fee online.

CollegeNET has contracted with about 200 colleges and universities, including Cornell, Stanford, Virginia Tech, and MIT, to build and service their online applications. Patricia Summers, director of internet marketing for CollegeNET, said the company hopes to expand its service even further via ACT’s presence.

CollegeNET’s web site is:

http://www.collegenet.com

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Wisconsin district offers computer rebates to employees

To encourage the use of computers among its employees, the Neenah, Wis., Joint School District is offering teachers a rebate of up to $1,000 toward the purchase of a home computer.

The local school board approved $150,000 for the program on Nov. 17. The rebate is open to all full-time district employees, including custodians and food-service workers.

The school district will reimburse employees for half the computer’s cost up to $1,000.

“I’d like to think that this is a thank-you and a pat-on-the-back sort of a way for the Board of Education to show its recognition that [school employees] do spend a lot money out of their own pocket,” said board President David Ellis.

School district officials hope that if employees become proficient with a home computer, those skills will carry over to the workplace.

Superintendent Richard Carlson said the school board might consider extending the program if it proves popular.

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Newslines–Anti-Defamation League develops hate-speech filter

Fearing that children are particularly vulnerable targets for hatemongers, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) unveiled a new software program Nov. 11 designed to filter bigotry from home and school computers.

While there are dozens of internet filters available, “HateFilter” does more than just restrict access to a bigoted site. It steers the user to the ADL’s own home page, which tries to counter the messages of hate.

In the past, hate groups would get their messages out with pamphlets distributed on street corners. These days, “they can reach millions and millions of people quickly, easily, and very inexpensively,” said Howard Berkowitz, national chairman of the ADL.

The software, which can be purchased for about $30 a year, filters specific web sites rather than weeding out material using certain key words. For example, if the ADL tried to block hate groups using the word “Nazi,” it would end up barring historical information about the Holocaust.

The ADL plans to update the software each week to block access to new web pages or old ones that change their addresses.

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School tech director traces student hacker

Students considering hacking into Waterville, Maine, schools’ computer system had better think twice. According to the Central Maine Morning Sentinel, Steven Smith, the district’s technology director, discovered that a hacker from Annapolis, Md., was deleting files from the district’s server. Smith ultimately put the FBI on the hacker’s trail.

Smith reportedly told school board members on Nov. 16 that two weeks earlier, a hacker had gotten into the system, deleting files and causing the server to malfunction. Within 24 hours, Smith said, he was able to trace the attack to a high school student in Annapolis, who reportedly had been hacking into school systems around the country.

Smith told the Morning Sentinel that he’d contacted the chief of police and the district’s attorney, but was told that charges couldn’t be pressed against the hacker. So, Smith took matters into his own hands–he called the FBI, which has assigned an agent in Augusta to the case.

An internet service provider in Maryland eMailed Smith a photograph of the hacker and information about him. According to Smith, he apparently hacks just for the satisfaction of disrupting services.

Smith told the Sentinel that he’s unsure what the FBI plans to do with the case.

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Iowa district to run entirely on wind energy

The Spirit Lake, Iowa, school district’s electric bills soon will be blowing in the wind. By the middle of next year, the district plans to have its electricity supplied entirely by two wind-energy generators.

The district installed one 240-kilowatt wind turbine in 1993 to power the elementary school, with enough electricity left over for 188 homes. Officials are adding a second, larger generator next year.

Superintendent Harold Overman said the first turbine already has paid for itself, and he said the power savings over the next five years would be enough to equip a computer lab.

“In my 28 years, it’s the single most popular thing I’ve done,” Overman said. “It’s a nice looking thing on the horizon. People are proud of it. They know that it’s returning finances to them. It’s a no-loser.”

The second unit, which will cost about $550,000, will be 500 kilowatts. Bids will be opened Dec. 14, and the district hopes to have it up and running by next July. Officials said they are working with Alliant Energy to buy the excess power.

“It’s just amazing that everyone isn’t doing this,” Overman said.

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Newslines–Schools crack down on laser pointers

A laser pointer has resulted in an in-school suspension for a 12-year-old Dubuque, Iowa, girl, because school officials said the devices–which emit a tiny red beam of light–are treated as though they are weapons. Like many school districts, Dubuque is cracking down on laser pointers, confiscating them when it can and noting they are a disruption in class and potentially dangerous.

“We’ve noticed it this school year,” said Ed Mulholland, a Hempstead High School assistant principal. “It’s become a fad.”

The battery-powered pointers contain a small, but powerful laser diode. The diode emits a red light that travels as far as 300 feet. The light helps lecturers point to information on a screen, chart, or blackboard.

Laser pointers are available at office supply stores from key-chain versions that sell for about $12 to fancier versions built into pens that sell for $80 or more.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has warned parents that laser pointers can be more intense than the sun’s light. Aiming pointers at the eye can be more damaging than staring into the sun.

Dubuque Superintendent Joel Morris said there is no district policy about laser pointers.

But, he said, “We have been dealing with them as if they were a weapon.”

Bringing a laser pointer to school usually results in confiscation, he said. But if they’re used threateningly, he said, that can lead to an in-school suspension.

Wendy Balser’s 12-year-old daughter, Kambrie, brought a low-powered laser pointer to school and was given a three-day in-school suspension.

“It was definitely a shock to hear it was considered a weapon,” Balser said. “If you shine it into an eye for a prolonged period of time it could cause damage. But we all know that when you put a pencil in an eye it can cause damage, too.”

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Newslines–CEO Forum leader: Teacher preparation

The CEO Forum on Education and Technology, a partnership of 21 business and education leaders, has released an updated version of its School Technology and Readiness (STaR) Chart. Terry Crane, president of Jostens Learning Corp. and this year’s forum leader, said the revised chart stresses professional development standards for teachers.

“It is crucial that we adequately prepare teachers so that they may prepare our students for the ever-expanding technological world that awaits them outside their school walls,” Crane said. These efforts are particularly important now, she added, because public schools are expected to hire at least 200,000 new K-12 teachers in the next decade.

The STaR Chart, first released last fall, is a tool for educators to measure the integration of technology in their schools. This year’s emphasis on professional development in part reflects the fact that money allocated to training in most school district budgets falls far short of the 30 percent of overall technology funding recommended by the U.S. Department of Education.

At the presentation of the new STaR Chart Oct. 29, Crane urged school systems and schools of education to take the following steps to improve professional development:

1) Require mastery of the use of technology in the classroom for licensing and certification of new teachers;

2) Require technology skills for current teachers to keep their licenses;

3) Encourage and reward technology integration and innovation in performance reviews for teachers, administrators, and professors at schools of edu- cation; and

4) Create new incentives for schools, districts, and classroom teachers to integrate technology into the curriculum.

Privacy protection law could make student access more difficult

A new federal law that has yet to take effect is already shaping children’s online experience on such web sites as Time Warner’s Sports Illustrated for Kids and Disney Online, according to the New York Times.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) quietly entered the books as part of the omnibus budget bill that was signed into law Oct. 21. (The privacy protection statute is not to be confused with the similar-sounding Child Online Protection Act — COPA — a law being challenged in federal court as the successor to the Communications Decency Act, which was struck down by the Supreme Court.

COPPA is designed to protect children’s safety by requiring commercial web sites to get permission from parents before collecting personal information from children under 13. But critics are worried that such requirements could stifle the very quality that makes the internet so compelling: its ability to transmit information instantly.

Others wonder if the law will have unintended consequences, pushing children into sites meant for more mature audiences, simply because of the bother involved in getting their parents’ permission to view sites intended for them.

Julie T. Richer, president of Able Minds Inc., the San-Francisco-based company that publishes the children’s site CyberKids, told the Times, “The government is making it harder for kids to get into web sites specially targeted for them. So where are they going to go? Adult sites.”

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