Special Focus: Computerized Testing: Study shows tech-savvy students might benefit more from computer-administered exams

A new study conducted by researchers at Boston College suggests that scores on tests taken with paper and pencil might substantially underestimate the achievement of students who are accustomed to working on computers.

The study compared how students with varying levels of computer skills take open-ended tests on computers and on paper. Language arts, math, and science tests were administered to sample groups of eighth-graders to determine whether students tended to do better on computerized tests or using traditional paper and pencil methods.

The study, titled “Testing on Computers: A Follow-Up Study Comparing Performance On Computer and On Paper,” was conducted by Mike Russell and Walt Haney of Boston College’s Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation, and Educational Policy.

Russell and Haney drew a sample group of students from two Worcester, Mass., middle schools. Only students who had taken the seventh-grade SAT 9 standardized test were studied, so researchers had an indicator of prior achievement on which to base the results of their study.

The students were assigned to two groups. One group took the language arts and math sections of the test, and the other group took the language arts and science sections. The two groups were further subdivided so that half of each group was tested on the language arts section by computer, and half on the other section by computer.

Students participating in the study were required to fill out a questionnaire on prior computer use and take a keyboarding test. They were given the open-ended test with a limited amount of time to complete both the computerized section and the pencil and paper section.

The tests Russell and Haney used were fairly standard, and scoring guidelines were developed by the National Assessment of Educational Progress and Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System. All written test results were transferred exactly as written to typeface, so that handwriting would have no effect on the scoring.

The results of the study suggested that students who demonstrate computer competency (here defined as keying around 20 words per minute) do much better on open-ended language arts tests when they are given on a computer than when given on paper.

However, if the keyboarder was slower, using a computer for an open-ended language arts test adversely affected his or her performance.

Interestingly, math scores were lower when students used computers than when they used a pencil and paper. This is not surprising, since students trying to solve math problems would run into frequent formatting problems when trying to use a computer for their calculations, Russell said.

“As far as I see it, these results leave us with three options,” Russell said. “First, you can try to administer everything by computer, but that is not practical and not fair to some students. Second, we could use the old method, but we already don’t use computers enough to prepare kids. That’s not a good option. Or third, we can take state test scores less seriously, until we can allow for letting kids choose how they want to be tested.”

In the study, Russell concludes that educators should “exercise caution when drawing inferences about students based on open-ended test scores when the medium of assessment does not match their medium of learning.”

Boston College’s Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation, and Educational Policy

http://www.csteep.bc.edu

“Testing on Computers” study

http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v7n20

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Schools to feel effects of MCI WorldCom merger with Sprint: $115 billion deal would be largest-ever takeover

MCI WorldCom Inc. has announced what could become the largest corporate takeover in history. It’s a move significant to schools and anybody else who uses telephones, cable TVs, or the internet. On Oct. 5, the nation’s second largest long-distance firm unveiled plans for a $115 billion acquisition of Sprint Corp., America’s third-largest long-distance company.

All the implications for schools were not immediately apparent at press time. But—at the least—educators can expect the combined company, which will be called WorldCom, to have a significant effect on the telephone rates schools pay, the telecommunications services schools use, the number and complexity of the telecommunication bills schools receive, and quite possibly even the long-term viability of the eRate.

The eRate is a federal discount funded through telecommunications company revenues. It helps schools and libraries connect to the internet.

Although the smart money is betting the mega-merger ultimately will go through, the officials in Washington who must approve the deal were raising questions.

The nation’s top telephone regulator immediately warned the companies that they “bear a heavy burden to show how consumers would be better off” as a result of the merger.

The combined company would control 30 percent of the U.S. long-distance market, as well as offer wireless phone and paging services and an internet network. WorldCom also would be a stronger competitor to AT&T Corp., the nation’s largest long-distance and cable TV company.

But William E. Kennard, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said MCI WorldCom and Sprint will have to make a strong case for approval of the deal.

“American consumers are enjoying the lowest long-distance rates in history and the lowest internet rates in the world for one reason: competition,” Kennard said in Washington. “Competition has produced a price war in the long-distance market.

“This merger appears to be a surrender,” he said. “How can this be good for consumers?”

Bernard J. Ebbers, president and chief executive of MCI WorldCom, told reporters in New York, “We understood from day one it is our burden of proof to show this is pro-competitive.” He added, “We look forward to the opportunity of doing that.”

Consumers might not see any immediate benefit from the acquisition of Kansas City, Mo.-based Sprint because long-distance and wireless calling rates already are at historic lows. The new WorldCom, however, would offer a broader range of products by combining the strengths of MCI WorldCom and Sprint.

For schools, that might mean the chance to bundle long-distance, wireless, and internet services together into attractive packages that could rival those of AT&T. But Tom Magee, an attorney with Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, a firm that handles eRate issues for Ohio schools, cautioned that such bundles wouldn’t necessarily translate into less administration on the part of schools for programs such as the eRate.

“With the layers of bureaucracy involved in a large company, it can be trouble getting things done on a timely basis,” he said. “I’d imagine the problem would be compounded when two large companies get together.”

Sweetening the deal

MCI WorldCom in the final hours of merger negotiations sweetened its offer to $76 per share in stock rather than risk losing Sprint to rival BellSouth Corp., which had offered $72 per share in cash and stock, or $100 billion.

Both companies’ boards voted to approve the deal, and it was formally announced on Oct. 5. The deal would be the largest corporate merger ever, eclipsing the pending $82 billion deal between Exxon Corp. and Mobil Corp.

MCI WorldCom is the nation’s second biggest long-distance company and one of the world’s biggest operators of the networks that make up the internet, but it has no wireless calling business. Sprint PCS would fill that hole nicely.

“The merger with Sprint is particularly timely as wireless communications emerges as a critical component of full-service offerings,” said Ebbers. “Increasingly, wireless will be used for internet access and data services, two areas in which both companies excel.”

BellSouth was seeking Sprint’s long-distance business to complement its local telephone business in nine states in the Southeast. Like the other Baby Bells, the Atlanta-based company is hopeful that federal regulators will soon allow it to offer long-distance service in its home region.

Even the mightiest telecommunications companies are racing to grab an edge in technology and geographic reach so they can compete in a market where distinctions between telephones, television, radio, and computers are disappearing.

There have been 233 telecom deals this year alone, totaling $195 billion, according to Thomson Securities Data Co. If the MCI WorldCom deal with Sprint goes through, this year’s total will blow past the $220 billion in telecom deals signed for all of 1998.

MCI WorldCom Inc.

http://www.mciworldcom.com

Sprint Corp.

http://www.sprint.com

AT&T Corp

http://www.att.com

Federal Communications Commission

http://www.fcc.gov

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‘National Techies Day’ celebration targets shortage of IT professionalsOutreach effort honors technology staff, encourages IT careers

Schools across the country celebrated the first-ever National Techies Day Oct. 5, an event designed to show appreciation for technology professionals and encourage students to pursue careers in technology.

Techies Day organizers and supporters—including the Department of Commerce, TECH CORPS, and Federal Express—joined with co-founders techies.com and the online news source C/NET to focus national attention on the nation’s shortfall of technology workers and to encourage leaders in government, business, and education to work together to address the problem.

A kick-off event took place at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., with 20 TECH CORPS volunteers addressing students in classrooms and an assembly for students and local businesses. The event featured appearances by Commerce Secretary William Daley and Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and honorary chairperson of Techies Day.

Also in the nation’s capital, representatives from the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), an IT industry trade group, and Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., a champion for school technology, met with students to encourage them to consider technology-related careers.

“Unfortunately, this day is needed since we are approaching the start of the next century and our nation continues to lag behind in the size of its technology workforce,” Larson lamented. “As a former teacher, I know that the best way to support our future workforce is in the classroom.”

Here’s a roundup of some of the other school-related events that took place in conjunction with National Techies Day:

• In Memphis, the city’s Chamber of Commerce placed 300 local technology pros in classrooms throughout the city to discuss technology careers.

• In San Francisco, 200 students visited Sony’s Metreon entertainment center, took a behind-the-scenes tour of how the Metreon works, and had a question-and-answer lunch with the engineers.

• In Boston, Newton North High School students heard from a panel of technology professionals from Sun Life of Canada about career opportunities in technology.

• In Houston, Compaq Computer donated $250,000 to the TECH CORPS Telementoring Network, a pilot program developed by TECH CORPS that links online technology experts with technology coordinators in schools. The pilot will concentrate on underserved and rural communities.

• In Minneapolis, students from Phalen Lake Elementary School met with technology professionals organized by techies.com and attended an assembly featuring Lt. Governor Mae Schrunk.

• In New York, technology executives from 24/7 Media conducted interactive classroom presentations at the Young Women’s Leadership School, the city’s only all-girls public high school.

Recent studies have shown that fewer students are studying the requisite math and science classes to prepare for technology careers, even as the number of those jobs increases significantly.

The U.S. Department of Commerce recently took a deep look at the issue in its report, “The Digital Work Force: Building Infotech Skills at the Speed of Innovation.” The report found that many factors affect the supply and quality of IT workers. These include a poor image of the IT profession, lack of career information and encouragement for students, the need for increased competency in math and science, challenges in the IT teaching infrastructure, and failure to attract underrepresented groups to the profession.

What’s more, a survey conducted by Techies Day organizers found that a large portion of Americans, and particularly those just entering the work force, don’t realize there is such a shortage. Overall, 26 percent of those polled said they were unaware of the shortage, while the percentage jumps to 42 percent in the 18-24 age group.

Here are some other notable findings from the “American Views on Technology” survey:

• When it comes to encouraging more elementary students to study math and science and to prepare for technology careers, 65 percent said we need to improve teacher training in technology and 54 percent said technology should be a mandatory part of the public school curriculum.

• Being a technology guru is the new American Dream, with 75 percent of respondents saying parents should encourage their children to study technology over business; 72 percent over medicine; and 58 percent over law. More than half of all respondents would pursue technology careers if they could go back and do it over.

• Respondents named Bill Gates as the “Techie of the Century,” followed by Henry Ford and the Wright Brothers. The computer was named “Tech Invention of the Century,” followed by television and the automobile.

C/NET

http://home.cnet.com

Techies.com

http://www.techies.com

Techies Day home page

http://www.techiesday.com

TECH CORPS

http://www.techcorps.org

U.S. Department of Commerce

http://www.doc.gov

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Report: Three-fifths of teachers struggle to find good softwareLack of correlation to state standards often cited as a big problem

Teachers are getting more computers in their classrooms, but they’re having a hard time finding software to meet their students’ needs, according to a survey of the nation’s teachers and state education departments by the newspaper Education Week.

While government officials declare school technology a national mission and pledge to connect every classroom to the internet, they are not investing enough time and money in educational software, the survey concludes.

“Politicians wire the classrooms and think they are done,” said publisher Virginia Edwards. “But that’s not the case at all.”

According to the survey, called “Technology Counts,” 59 percent of teachers who use software for instruction said it is “somewhat” or “very” difficult to find software to meet their needs in the classroom.

Many teachers reported that the available learning software does not match state or school district standardized tests, cannot run on underpowered classroom computers, consumes too much instructional time, or costs too much.

“I wouldn’t give many of the [software] titles a 9 or a 10,” said Ed Adshead, a network resource teacher who helps colleagues with computers at Patrick Henry Elementary School in suburban Washington. “We have to hunt for it, and then we find it isn’t nearly as good as it looked like or what it was described as.”

Overall, 71 percent of the nation’s 86,000 schools can reach the internet from at least one classroom. On average, the report said, nearly six students—there are 53.2 million nationwide—match up for every one “instructional computer,” which includes older models without extras such as sound cards and video.

Cost is a problem in effectively using computers, 80 percent of the teachers surveyed said. Among those teachers who use software for instruction, 47 percent said there are software titles they would like to use, but cannot because their school computers are not powerful enough.

At Patrick Henry, which has a $4,000 annual computer software budget, teachers buy software products with their own money and enlist the Parent-Teacher Association’s help in fund-raising. Recently, they hauled 250 donated computers in their cars.

“We are at a distinct advantage when you look at what we do have,” says fifth-grade teacher Melinda Jones. “We all attended the workshops, but it’s all about taking time to find what we need and getting the support to do it really consistently.”

But cost and time aren’t the only problems. According to the survey, 46 percent of teachers who use software for instruction say that how it matches with their state or district curriculum is a “big” or “moderate” problem—particularly as state standardized tests have become the focal point of school curricula.

Software problems are not insurmountable, according to the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

“The whole landscape has changed,” said Linda Roberts, ED’s director of technology. “Publishers are very serious about developing content for the schools. The challenge is in developing high quality content, and that takes money and knowledge about how students learn—and it takes very clear signals from the buyers.”

Recognizing a need on the part of teachers, some software publishers already have begun to tie software to state standards of learning. The California-based company Knowledge Adventure, for example, recently developed special versions of its Classworks Gold software aligned to state standards in Texas and Florida, and other states’ versions are in the works, the company said.

Other resources are cropping up to help teachers and curriculum directors find software to meet their needs. For instance, a free web site from MediaSeek Technologies, called ExploraSource, identifies learning resources from more than 120 well-known publishers of educational materials—including books, web sites, software, and video tapes—that match the curriculum topics, grade levels, and state or national standards indicated by users.

More key findings:

• Teachers who have been in the classroom five years or less are no more likely to use digital content than those who have been teaching for more than 20 years, suggesting that training is the biggest factor in the use of instructional technology.

• Teachers in grades K-5 are more likely to use software than web sites for instruction, while teachers in grades 6-12 are more likely to use web sites than software.

• Science teachers report the greatest difficulty in finding software, followed by English, math, and social studies teachers.

• Teachers who have more influence in selecting software tend to rely on it more.

• Twenty-three states have group-purchasing plans for schools to buy classroom software, which can cost $600 to $1,000 per title.

• Four states developed some software lessons to match the standards they have set for learning goals by grades. Eight states put such content on web sites.

“Technology Counts” was based on 1,407 responses from a representative sample of 15,000 K-12 teachers, Education Week said. The reported margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The third annual report tracking state policies and funding of school technology was underwritten by The Milken Family Foundation of Santa Monica, Calif.

“Technology Counts ’99” report

http://www.edweek.com/sreports/tc99

U.S. Department of Education

http://www.ed.gov

Knowledge Adventure

http://www.knowledgeadventure.com

ExploraSource

http://www.explorasource.com

Milken Family Foundation

http://www.mff.org

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Iowa fifth-graders put laptop learning to the test

No more pencils and wire-bound notebooks in Kirkwood Elementary School teacher Nancy Fotsch’s fifth-grade classroom. These 22 Coralville, Iowa, students are among a select group in the Iowa City, Monticello, and Cedar Rapids school districts taking part in a high-tech research project to evaluate the effectiveness of laptop computers in the classroom.

A team of researchers at the University of Iowa wants to see what impact the laptops have on the students’ learning habits and on how teachers instruct their students.

“We want to see if students become less dependent on the teacher and more independent in how they use the computer,” said Jean Donham, an assistant professor of library and information science at the university. “Generally, we’re looking at [whether] students are initiating their own questions, rather than answering questions by the teacher.”

The impetus for the study came from the Grant Wood Area Education Agency, a regional organization supporting 36 Iowa school districts. The agency chose one rural district, one urban district, and one district from a college town for participation in the study.

What little research on laptop learning already exists is largely based on Microsoft-initiated studies of the company’s “Anytime, Anywhere Learning” program, Donham said.

“What’s come out of these studies so far . . . is a change in students’ writing habits,” she said. The studies suggest that access to computers that students can take anywhere leads to more frequent student writing and, as a result, an improvement in students’ overall writing skills.

“We’re considering that a given and looking at other dimensions of laptop use as well—such as whether the role of the teacher changes and whether kids tend to explore more resources on their own and become inquirers,” Donham said.

The 1.5-pound Hewlett-Packard laptops store a scaled-down version of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint programs, as well as internet and eMail capabilities.

The laptops don’t change any aspects of the fifth-grade curriculum. But, Fotsch said, students will learn about internet safety, copyright laws, and how to evaluate different sites. She also hopes the laptops will allow them to develop pen pals with Monticello or Cedar Rapids students also involved with the project.

A pair of $150,000 grants from the Iowa Department of Education and Microsoft fund the project. Several businesses also are donating services, such as the wireless communication systems that allow for internet and printer access without the hassle of connecting cords.

Retail value of the laptops is $900 each, but the districts got the equipment at a reduced price of nearly $600. Students get to keep the laptops for three years.

“Next year, the new fifth-grade classes will be followed for two years. I think the use of them will increase over time,” said Bill Dutton, director of instruction for Iowa City schools. “The use becomes more sophisticated as they get older.”

Officials working with the project say fifth grade was chosen as the project’s starting point because it is a time when keyboarding skills are stressed. Also, it allows researchers to see if students change how they learn, especially during the transition from elementary school to junior high.

The study is scheduled to last three years, and the results will be published in educational journals and at educational conferences.

“The types of changes we are interested in take time,” Donham said. “Too often, projects don’t last long enough for educators to see their impact, and our hope is that the duration of this project will increase the depth of understanding about what is happening for these students and teachers.”

University of Iowa

http://www.uiowa.edu

Grant Wood Area Education Agency

http://www.aea10.k12.ia.us

Iowa Department of Education

http://www.state.ia.us/educate

Microsoft Corp.

http://www.microsoft.com

Hewlett Packard Co.

http://www.hp.com

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School-developed software could earn district $800 K

Three top officials from New York State’s Niagara Falls City School District have formed their own company to market an information management program the district helped develop. The venture, if successful, could yield the Niagara Falls school system more than $800,000 in profit.

Superintendent Carmen A. Granto, business services administrator Roy W. Rogers, and information services chief Guy Rizzuto have launched an enterprise called “Integrated Educational Services” as part of an agreement they reached with Vision Associates of White Plains, N.Y., to become an authorized reseller of the data-warehousing program eScholar.

The school system opted out of its ownership interest in eScholar, for which it served as prototype, thereby protecting itself from any liability if something goes wrong with the software. However, the district can still collect up to $1.1 million in royalties on future sales of the program—a potential profit of some $825,000 after figuring in its $275,000 original investment.

The Niagara Falls school board approved the agreement Aug. 26.

The district had paid Vision Associates $230 an hour and provided numerous staff hours to help the company develop eScholar, a data-warehousing solution designed for the K-12 market.

eScholar pulls information from existing electronic systems and puts it in a form that is easy to analyze. The program helps administrators track student and staff attributes such as grades, attendance, discipline, test scores, demographic information, and teacher certification.

Using the software, officials can look for patterns that will help them make better decisions, such as the relationship between grades and attendance or between standardized test scores and teacher preparation.

Under its original arrangement, Niagara Falls would have been entitled to collect half the royalties on all sales of the software with no cap. Considering that Vision Associates predicts worldwide sales of as much $200 million, it might sound as if the district is giving up a potential windfall.

But being a co-developer of the program also would have left the district open to any lawsuits filed as a result of a software glitch or malfunction.

With the reworked deal in place, “If a future version of eScholar ‘crashed,’ no one could sue Niagara Falls, with its supposedly deep pockets,” Vision Associates President Shawn Bay told the Buffalo News.

Under the new agreement, the district will continue to reap a 50-percent royalty on sales of eScholar—including sales conducted by Integrated Educational Services—but only up to the $1.1 million cap.

Beyond protecting itself from potential lawsuits, the district also has been released from any obligation to continually update eScholar.

That responsibility—and a certain amount of liability—will now fall to Integrated Educational Services, the private firm launched by Granto and two other district officials.

Not everyone in the community is behind the move, however. In an editorial published in the Buffalo News, resident Lynn A. Garcia speculated on the potential conflict of interest posed by the arrangement.

“In the real world of business, a group of employees establishing a new business for themselves based upon technology or the business relationship of their employer would be in serious conflict of interest . . .” Garcia wrote.

But school board attorney Angelo Massaro believes the parties have sufficiently addressed the conflict-of-interest questions.

Integrated Educational Services will not have a direct relationship with the district. Instead, it will pay a royalty on its sales to Vision Associates, which will then forward the district’s cut to the school board. Furthermore, the new company will use private resources to upgrade eScholar and the district will enjoy future versions at no cost.

“Now, if [Integrated Educational Services] were to sell to the district, that would be a conflict of interest on the part of those employees,” Massaro told the Buffalo News.

Granto told the school board he would be happy to forgo the venture if the board sees a conflict.

On the other hand, Granto reminded the board, “If we do this, the more we sell, the more the board gets. And if the district receives $1 million, that’s a million less from the tax rolls.”

eScholar

http://www.escholar.com

Integrated Educational Services

http://www.edserve.net

Niagara Falls City School District

http://www.niagara.k12.ny.us

Vision Associates Inc.

http://www.visionassociates.com

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New software could help educators recognize the warning signs of violence

School administrators who are concerned about tracking and predicting potentially violent behavior in their students may soon have access to a new software program that promises to help keep kids safe.

The software, MOSAIC-2000, will be installed as a pilot program in 25 schools nationwide. It was developed by nationally-known violence prediction expert Gavin de Becker.

de Becker, who lives in Los Angeles, provides high-level protection for celebrities and public figures and has written two best-selling books on personal safety.

The result of more than ten years of research on violence and personal safety, MOSAIC-2000 is an advanced computer-aided assessment system that provides guidance in the evaluation of situations that might escalate to violence.

According to the product’s web site, the program works by drawing on research, expert opinion, and the study of more than 350,000 communications and 24,000 cases. Once new information is compared against this huge database, the program codes and assigns value to interrelated aspects of a case. The case screening results tell evaluators to what degree a case is similar to those that involve violence.

MOSAIC-2000 was developed for schools on the premise that every administrator has a method for evaluating students who make threats of violence, but no method for recording and analyzing these threats in an organized fashion for long-term examination. The program was designed to bring uniformity, structure, expert opinion, and validity to high-stakes evaluations such as these.

According to de Becker, MOSAIC-2000 allows educators to receive answers to questions such as:

• What is most important for me to learn about this situation?

• What information will most inform my evaluation?

• How can I organize all the information I gather to weigh it most effectively?

• What factors and warning signs are most relevant to future behavior?

• How can I express and document my conclusions?

For educational purposes, the system works like this:

• An administrator or counselor sits down with a student who has crossed a disciplinary line of some sort, such as making a threat.

• The student must answer questions about his behavior, which include information about movies and music the child favors; history of family problems or abuse; and behavioral indicators, like animal abuse.

• The software then compares these answers with the other recorded cases in the database to determine the possibility of future violence for that student.

Different versions of the MOSAIC software currently are being used for violence assessment by the California Highway Patrol, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the CIA, and the U.S. Marshal’s Office.

The program has received enthusiastic responses from law enforcement and government security agencies alike, de Becker said.

Ohio is one of the states with schools participating in the MOSIAC-2000 pilot program, thanks to the endorsements of Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery and State Schools Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman.

Montgomery will consider funding the software for Ohio schools if the pilot program is successful, said Chris Davey, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office. Indicators that the program is working to counteract violence could include decreases in student suspensions or expulsions or a documented intervention that prevented violence, Davey said.

Interest in school safety software and other violence prevention measures has increased as a result of the recent rash of school violence, most notably the school shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. Davey added that he believes that society is reaching a threshold for its toleration of such violence.

“We’ve tried getting tough, banning book bags, putting cameras in schools—sometimes you feel you’ve tried everything,” he said. “Here’s a guy who says we can predict it and stop it before it ever happens. If someone is stepping up to the plate, we need to take notice of it.”

The estimated cost of installing MOSAIC-2000 is $1,000 per district.

Gavin de Becker Inc.

http://www.gdbinc.com

Ohio Attorney General’s Office

http://www.ag.state.oh.us

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SportsCapsule.com serves up high school contests via the webParticipating schools get free video equipment in exchange for broadcasting their games

A new, free internet service for high schools can give your sports teams newfound exposure and give out-of-town fans unprecedented access to your school’s events. The program, called SportsCapsule.com, also provides you with free video equipment and can make money for your school.

A national demonstration of SportsCapsule.com was held Sept. 17, when a football game at a small Midwestern high school kicked off the fledgling service—one that soon might span every state and spread to other hometown sports and events.

Schools sign up for the program at no cost and, in return, get free video equipment and a part of the income from the sale of the games, said Michael Paolucci, president of SportsCapsule.com.

For those who want to tune in, games will be available on a pay-per-view basis, complete with individual player capsules, highlights, statistics, and audio voice-overs by nationally known broadcasters. Single game tapes, available on VHS or online, cost $19.95. But fans can buy a season pass and pay as little as $9.95 per game.

How much of that money goes to the school depends on how many teams the school has in the program and how many tapes they sell, Paolucci said.

Paolucci, a 29-year-old New York entrepreneur who has made his fortune on the internet, said SportsCapsule.com offers a video-on-demand service on the internet for the first time for high school sports.

His first venture into the internet was in 1995 as cofounder of 24/7 Media Inc., an internet advertising firm that went public in 1998.

“Internet advertising was an important step, but at the end of the day there is nothing noble in selling advertising,” Paolucci said. “The product we are creating here is good for everybody.”

The program is good for the coach, good for recruiting athletes, and good for the school, he said.

Sterling High School in Kansas is the first to sign on for the service and hosted the demonstration game. The school plans to form a class where students can learn to utilize the technology not just for football games, but for other sports and concerts, said Principal Mike Berlinger.

“It is positive publicity. It gets some of our students’ pictures and stories out,” Berlinger said. “It also is getting us some equipment that will be used, really, by the whole school once this preliminary kickoff is done with.”

Students learn to tape the game, edit the highlights, and upload it all to the firm’s server.

“It brings groups of people together who wouldn’t necessarily associate with each other in a high school: the jocks and the techies,” Paolucci said.

Quarterback Daniel Smith produced the first player capsule from his home, where SportsCapsule.com already has installed a satellite dish to speed communications.

The first half of the game was on the internet before the end of the half-time show, with the rest of the game posted shortly after the finish. Smith was to edit a game highlight for his capsule later that night.

“It’s a great opportunity to try to show what you can do,” Smith said.

His uncle in Yakima, Wash., planned to watch him play on the internet.

Cameron Zaid, 17, hopes his grandparents in Israel will finally get to watch him play football as well.

“I’ve only seen them twice, and I don’t speak Arabic and they don’t speak English,” Zaid said.

Meanwhile, the company does not have to pay a professional camera crew. Paolucci said he expects to turn a profit by 2001.

With more than 20,000 high schools across the country, the company already has received more interest than it can handle. And then there are the middle schools, Little League teams, school concerts, and graduation ceremonies.

“Once we prove this concept can work, and the quality is good enough over the internet, we will expand into these other things,” Paolucci said.

The school in Sterling was chosen to kick off the demonstration because it is a “quintessential small town” located in the heartland, far from the big cities out on the coast, Paolucci said. And, of course, it just happened to be the hometown of one of the publicists for the venture.

The central Kansas town, home to 2,500 people, is typical of other small towns, in that the community revolves around the school’s activities, Berlinger said.

Coach Monte Ball hopes the internet will help his players get more exposure to college recruiters.

“It’s neat for the kids to have the opportunity to see themselves on the internet and for people worldwide to see them,” Ball said.

Paolucci grew up the youngest of six boys who played lots of sports. His father was dedicated to his sons, he said, but could not attend all their games.

He said he wishes he could have a video today of that home run he hit when he was 12 years old against his archnemesis.

“That’s what got me motivated about this,” Paolucci said. “Video is right on the cusp. It is about to explode . . . I am not sure this concept would have been feasible without the internet.”

SportsCapsule.com

http://www.sportscapsule.com

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New Jersey districts to get broadband digital video network’Access New Jersey’ will bring live and stored video resources to schools throughout the state

Access New Jersey, a partnership between Bell Atlantic-New Jersey and FVC.COM, soon will give New Jersey’s students access to a $55 million, broadband digital video network. Representatives of the two companies have been busy touring the state to demonstrate how the new network will work.

“The students of New Jersey are really going to reap the advantages of video technology faster than students in other states,” said Rich Beyer, president and chief executive officer of FVC.COM.

The Access New Jersey network comes in response to Gov. Christine Todd Whitman’s promise to “deliver high-speed access to every classroom in New Jersey by 2002.” The system will use FVC.COM video networking equipment to deliver live and stored video resources to schools throughout the state, reaching more than 600,000 students by the end of this year.

“By working with Bell Atlantic and FVC.COM to video-enable our classrooms, we are leveling the playing field for New Jersey’s students by delivering the finest quality educational resources to all schools, regardless of geographic or socioeconomic boundaries,” Whitman said.

Through Access New Jersey, which will be funded by the state, classroom sessions can be broadcast live to multiple sites, maximizing the impact of guest speakers or subject matter experts.

For example, several video classrooms can participate in a real-time interactive interview with a senator or the curator of a museum. This interview can then be broadcast live to classrooms throughout the state, while being recorded for replay at a later time as part of another class session.

The network’s video capabilities are accessed through FVC.COM’s new web-based video portal interface, bringing unprecedented ease-of-use to video applications in the classroom, the company said. Through the video portal, users can place a live video call, broadcast the call to multiple sites, record material, and view it later on demand.

These services are delivered over Bell Atlantic’s broadband network, using video networking products from FVC.COM and private backbone networking products from Cisco Systems. Bell Atlantic’s Data Solutions Group will provide all on-site network monitoring and support to schools using the network.

So far, more than half of New Jersey’s school districts have signed on for the service, said Peter Ventimiglia, vice president of external affairs for Bell Atlantic-New Jersey. He said schools that had been using Bell Atlantic’s Interactive Distance Learning service, the company’s previous video offering, will automatically be switched to the Access New Jersey network.

“Bell Atlantic is the first RBOC [regional Bell operating company] to deliver broadband video services on a large scale to its customers. Now they have raised the bar for telecommunications carriers around the country,” said FVC.COM’s Beyer. “Through our continuing partnership, we look forward to delivering broadband video services to other parts of the Bell Atlantic region as well.”

Bell Atlantic

http://www.bell-atl.com

FVC.COM

http://www.fvc.com

Cisco Systems Inc.

http://www.cisco.com

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After-hours computer program sparks Fort Lauderdale students’ interests

Educators and law enforcement officials in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., believe they have found the answer to poor educational performance, student truancy, and high rates of suspension: They have teamed up on a project that gets kids interested in learning through computers and an online instructional program that is accessible outside of school as well.

Eleven Fort Lauderdale sites—including area schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and churches—are hooking students up to the online curriculum resource NovaNET. By the end of 1999, Fort Lauderdale expects 15 schools to be brought online, according to the program’s founder, Bob Cooke.

Cooke, the grant coordinator for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, said the program marks a unique partnership between the schools and the local law enforcement community. Funding for the project comes primarily from the U.S. Department of Justice through a local law enforcement block grant, with additional funding from the Broward County School Board.

“This combination of resources and caring people is what is needed to keep students’ academic fires lit outside of school hours,” Cooke said.

NovaNET, which recently was acquired by the Minneapolis-based company NCS Inc., is an interactive electronic curriculum that offers online classes in more than 100 subject areas. The program is designed to act like a personal tutor for each student and can be adjusted for different levels of instructional need.

The lessons use color and graphics to engage students’ imaginations, according to NovaNET. They are structured to accept original student answers to the questions they pose, so students develop critical thinking and analysis skills as well as general content knowledge.

All of NovaNET’s packaged curricula are organized into units consisting of a pre-test, NovaNET lessons, and a post-test. Because instructors are able to join in the learning process, they can override the system at any point to modify the prescription, re-assign tests, or advance students to the next unit, the company said.

With the many different sites, documentation for the program was critical, Cooke said. Students needed to be tracked as they moved from one site to another. NovaNET’s management system provides seamless recordkeeping, including remote monitoring and the ability to track a student’s complete progress. All NovaNET documentation is stored centrally and student records can be transferred from any NovaNET site in the country.

The system is customizable to meet very specific needs, according to NovaNET, so the curriculum in Fort Lauderdale has been designed to fully correlate with the Florida Sunshine Standards. NovaNET also provides students with access to practice versions of standardized tests such as the ACT/SAT, the GED, and the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills. In addition, preparation for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test was to be added to the program’s curriculum this fall.

Cooke said he expects the NovaNET program to enhance and support existing community programs designed to keep kids off the streets and interested in learning after-hours, such as the Youth Motivation Program, Weed and Seed Safe Haven, and the Community Development’s Welfare to Work program.

So far, the outcome of the program has been greater than expected, Cooke said. For the first time, many struggling teens are taking a whole new attitude toward learning, he said, adding that they are energized and eager to make more of their lives. “Students have control over their learning,” he said. “They can work at their own pace” and level.

Deborah Stubbs, principal of Dillard High School—one of the participating schools—agrees. “Students are diving right into the compelling, challenging, and interactive lessons,” she said.

Summed Cooke: “I want people involved to remember that NovaNET is an important component of the bigger project,” he said, “[which is] to maximize educational capabilities, increase the number of graduates with marketable and college applicable skills, revitalize interest in schools, and provide the tools essential to being positive and productive citizens.”

Broward County Public Schools

http://www.browardschools.com

Fort Lauderdale Police Department

http://ci.ftlaud.fl.us/police/index.html

NovaNET Learning Inc.

http://www.novanet.com

U.S. Department of Justice

http://www.usdoj.gov

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