Internet 2 now open to K-12

The group behind the Internet2 (I2) initiative to provide a super-fast network backbone for advanced research applications over the internet has just opened participation in the project to include K-12 schools.

Douglas E. Van Houweling, president and chief executive officer of the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID), unveiled the new policy Oct. 19 at the School Technology Management 2000 conference sponsored by eSchool News and held in Washington, D.C.

The decision to invite K-12 schools to participate in I2 was made by member universities at their Fall 1999 Internet2 Member Meeting in Seattle, Oct. 10-13. Though the details are still being worked out, Van Houweling said each member university will be allowed to partner with one or more K-12 school systems to offer connectivity through a regional switching center called a gigaPoP.

To take advantage of the ultra high-speed access, participating K-12 schools must have at least category-5 cable with switched 100 megabit (MB) Ethernet connections inside their buildings and at least a 50 MB pipeline running into the school, Van Houweling said.

Until now, I2 has been solely the province of the higher education community, though its high-speed access and applications eventually will be made available commercially.

Launched in 1996 to support a new generation of network-based research and learning applications that the current internet is too slow to support, I2 currently consists of two separate backbones, Abilene and vBNS (very high performance Backbone Network Service).

Abilene, which debuted in March, already has linked together 60 colleges and universities, and an additional 22 were in the process of connecting to the network as of October. According to UCAID, Abilene allows for the transfer of 2.4 gigabits (billion bits) of data per second—that’s 1,600 times faster than a T-1 line.

In addition to high-speed connectivity, the announcement means that K-12 schools will have the opportunity to team with leading research universities to provide cutting-edge learning applications to their students online, such as:

Digital libraries. At Carnegie Mellon University, video footage from CNN is fed to and stored on a university server through a project called Informedia. Students and faculty can search for video segments by keyword; a search using the word “Kosovo,” for example, would generate up to 12 postage stamp-sized clips at a time on your computer screen. When you pass the cursor over one of the clips, the date and time it originally aired and the first phrase of the clip appear at the bottom of your screen; clicking on the image will give you a full-screen, full-motion video replay. “It’s TV under the control of the learner,” Van Houweling said.

Audio collections. Indiana University’s Variations project has archived an extensive collection of music that is available to students enrolled in the university’s music program over the internet. Students (and faculty) can play audio clips just like they can with a CD player—they can forward, pause, replay, or jump to the next movement of a piece to study it in greater detail.

‘Virtual laboratories’ and collaborative research. Through its Distributed NanoManipulator project, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill provides students with real-time access to remote sensing instruments in laboratories all over the world. Using a digital pencil connected to a scanning probe electron microscope, for example, students can manipulate a tobacco leaf under a remote microscope to study a plant virus.

‘Tele-immersion’ (shared virtual reality). Tele-immersion changes what is possible through distance learning by allowing individuals at different locations to interact in a single virtual environment and communicate with each other in real time. The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Virtual Temporal Bone project, for example, lets researchers in separate locations manipulate and share a single 3-D virtual image such as the bone structures in the human ear.

High-definition television (HDTV). In September, ResearchTV, a consortium of leading research institutions working to create greater access to research information, teamed with Sony Electronics to demonstrate the first-ever streaming of HDTV over the internet. A 40-minute stream of HDTV video was sent over the Internet2 backbone from Stanford University in Palo Alto to the University of Washington in Seattle in an almost “dropless” 270 megabit connection. “HDTV over the internet brings us closer to a more perfect transfer of visual data,” said Amy Philipson, executive director of ResearchTV. “Particularly in the case of accessing vivid images that are important to the progress of research activity. This is one of the highest speed applications ever run over the internet.”

To enable these high-bandwidth applications over the second-generation internet, the I2 project incorporates the following new features:

Quality of service. Through its QBone initiative, I2 is building the capability to schedule the necessary bandwidth for an application directly into the network, thereby guaranteeing that when you start an application, it won’t quit when other applications are launched simultaneously.

Multicasting (as opposed to broadcasting). Right now, if you broadcast something over the internet to a million viewers, you need a million different connections out from the server. Multicasting lets you fan out a single connection from the server to multiple viewers, thereby saving bandwidth and boosting transmission speeds.

Distributed storage. The I2’s Distributed Storage Infrastructure (I2-DSI) is a replicated hosting service for internet content and applications. DSI consists of servers with substantial processors and storage capacities located throughout the U.S. Each user request is directed to the server closest to the requesting client. The result is that network traffic is kept local and load is balanced among the distributed servers. “If you can cache items locally, then performance [of the network] is greatly improved,” Van Houweling noted.

Member universities and K-12 districts will be responsible for setting the terms and conditions of their partnerships to bring I2 applications and connectivity speeds to K-12 students, Van Houweling said.

Currently, 163 member universities—representing all 50 U.S. states—are involved in the I2 initiative, and there are about 30 gigaPoPs nationwide for connecting to the high-speed network. A complete list of members and a map of gigaPoP sites are available on the Internet2 web site (see link below).

Internet2 Project

Carnegie Mellon University

Indiana University’s Variations Project

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of Illinois at Chicago


FTC restricts kids’ websites

Web site operators must get parents’ permission in most cases before they can collect personal information from children, according to new rules issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Oct. 20. The rules, which will go into effect April 21, 2000, mark the FTC’s final compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) passed by Congress last year.

The rules are expected to have a dramatic impact on hundreds of popular internet sites aimed at children, which typically offer online games and entertainment in exchange for personal information valuable to marketers.

“There’s a real problem out there,” said FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky. “We’re going to give the industry six months to get its act together to make changes. After that, we’ll monitor these web sites, and we’ll take enforcement action.”

The rules culminate a year of debate over how COPPA should be enforced. The law requires all web sites that gather information from children 12 and under to get “verifiable parental consent.” But Congress left it up to the FTC to decide how.

Several companies had lobbied for eMail sent from a parent as sufficient proof of consent. eMail is the most convenient and immediate method for granting permission, and web site operators argued that other methods would be too costly for small companies to implement. But privacy advocates countered that eMail would be too easy to forge, especially for kids who often know more about technology than their parents.

The FTC’s rules, which were passed unanimously by the commission, will put a “sliding scale” in place that will give web site operators flexibility in how they comply with the law, based on the type of information they gather from children and how they plan to use it.

Web sites that let children participate in chat rooms or share personal information with other companies must get a parent’s permission through mailed or faxed paperwork, calls to a toll-free number, use of a credit card, or by eMail using tamper-resistant digital signature technology.

But for internal uses of information, sites will be permitted to use eMail, “as long as additional steps are taken to ensure that the parent is providing consent,” the rules state. “Such steps could include sending a confirmatory eMail to the parent following receipt of consent, or … confirming the parent’s consent by letter or telephone call.”

After two years, the sliding scale will expire in favor of more secure electronic forms of consent, the FTC said.

For computer use in schools, the rules will let teachers act as parents’ intermediaries. The rules also lay out some exceptions in which sites won’t have to get permission to collect a child’s name or eMail address, such as if a site responds to a child’s question by eMail or offers one-time homework help, or if a child enters a contest or subscribes to an online newsletter.

Pitofsky said the new rules will achieve “one of the commission’s top goals—protecting children’s privacy online.

“The rule meets the mandate of the statute,” he continued. “It puts parents in control over the information collected from their children online and is flexible enough to accommodate the many business practices and technological changes occurring on the internet.”

For the most part, experts from both sides of the issue seem to agree. “The FTC did a good, balanced job,” said Ron Plesser, an attorney with the Direct Marketing Association and other online marketing groups. “Everything’s a compromise—it’s not great for industry, but it resolves some major concerns.”

And Jason Catlett of Junkbusters Corp., a New Jersey-based privacy group that has frequently sparred with the FTC on privacy issues, praised the agency for a “remarkably good job.”

Parry Aftab, a lawyer who represents several children’s web sites, told the New York Times she was happy to see that the FTC recognized the need to give companies two years to change their eMail verification systems. But she said the more cumbersome rules—such as the one regarding permission for children to join chat rooms—will be difficult for small companies to implement.

The new rules highlight the need for central registries for children and their parents to use for giving consent to participating web sites, Aftab told the Times: “The third-party stuff is going to be very complicated. Without central registries, the small sites won’t be able to survive.”

Federal Trade Commission

Direct Marketing Association

Junkbusters Corp.


Teens learn perils of internet chat

From 1,200 miles away, a paralyzed Missouri teen-ager wouldn’t seem to pose much of a threat to middle school students in central Massachusetts. But when kids in Townsend, Mass., received menacing online messages and were directed to child pornography sites, they became frightened and alerted authorities.

Prosecutors said they traced the communications to Christian Hunold, 19, in Smithville, Mo. On Oct. 25, Hunold faced charges for distributing pornography to children and making threats. Of most concern, officials said, was a so-called “hit list,” where Hunold allegedly named 24 students and three teachers he intended to shoot.

The episode underscores the dangers of divulging too much personal information online to strangers—and the need for parents and educators to teach responsible use of the internet to their children and students.

Still shaken by the episode, nearly 175 Townsend parents and educators attended a forum held by the Massachusetts attorney general’s office, the Townsend police chief, and the superintendent of schools.

“I kind of felt worried because my sister was on the hit list,” Sean Dickhaut, a 7th grader at the school, told a local television reporter. “It was weird … that it would happen to our school.”

Officials said that over several weeks, Hunold directed students at Hawthorne Brook Middle School to child pornography web sites he created. They say Hunold, who has use of his right arm, got to know a Townsend student through a chat group for the rock group Limp Bizkit that he logged onto at home.

That student introduced Hunold to classmates who also communicated with him from home computers, officials said.

But when Hunold told the students he was in their community and planned to bomb their school and harm specific people, the students told authorities.

Bomb-sniffing dogs and a search of the school Oct. 22 determined there was no real threat, police said. But authorities said it does not matter that Hunold, who was paralyzed in a car accident a few years ago, might not have been physically able to carry out the alleged threats.

“It’s the psychological damage that you cause doing this,” Attorney General Tom Reilly said. “That’s the real danger with this type of online terrorism.”

Massachusetts officials filed eight charges in Ayer District Court, four involving pornography and four related to making threats and disrupting school. If convicted, Hunold faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the pornography charges and six months each on the others.

Missouri officials are also considering filing charges against Hunold. Lawyers for Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon were in Clay County Probate Court seeking his detention under a state law that allows authorities to hold a suspect for 96 hours if he is believed to be a threat to himself or others, said Mary Still, spokeswoman for Nixon.

Because the proceedings were closed, Still said her office could not disclose whether Hunold was detained.

Townsend Police Chief William May said parents should warn their children against giving out personal information over the internet. While stressing that Townsend children should not be blamed, he said they made “errors in judgment” by telling Hunold about themselves and their classmates.

William Pothier, a teacher named on the list, told the parents that officials were right to keep students in school that day.

“I was a teacher named on the hit list,” said Pothier. “I felt no fear on Friday; I only felt anger … If not Friday, when will it be safe to go back? We took back our school, ladies and gentlemen, that’s what we do here.”


Tech management event a success

The premier edition of the eSchool News “School Technology Management Conference and Exposition” drew more than 1,000 people to the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., Oct. 17-20.

The event was co-sponsored by Dell Computers, with additional support from JDL Technologies, Adobe Systems, FamilyEducation Company, Daly Computers, and Symbol Technologies.

School technology directors, superintendents, executive educators of all kinds came to the nation’s capital to hone their understanding of the management issues affecting school technology today, network with their colleagues from across the country and around the world, and catch a glimpse of the latest school technology on display at the “Blue Ribbon School Technology Exhibition.”

Attendees, who represented key decision makers at the building, district, state, and national levels—including a U.S. senator or two—were able to browse an exhibit hall featuring more than 50 presentations by a wide array of school technology vendors. Attendees also got a close-up look at a state-of-the-art school technology command center, organized by eSchool News and assembled with the participation of more than a dozen companies under the leadership of JDL Technologies.

Workshops and breakout sessions

The conference began with a series of total-immersion workshops, in which school technology leaders discussed practical solutions to complex issues with attendees.

“Tech-Savvy Teachers,” presented by Sue Collins, senior vice president of professional development and marketing for Jostens Learning Corp., highlighted several possible solutions to the practical issues administrators face when looking to adopt successful professional development strategies for their educators.

Peter Blauvelt, president of the National Alliance for Safe Schools and one of the country’s top authorities of school safety, led a workshop entitled “Safe Learning Environments,” in which he addressed ways to assess and deter student violence.

During the afternoon workshops, attendees learned the importance of “Committed Communities” to support their technology plans from eSchool News’ stakeholder relations columnist Nora Carr, director of marketing and development for the Cooperating School Districts of St. Louis.

Michael Gershowitz, president of Gershowitz Grant and Evaluation Services, and eSchool News’ grants and funding columnist Deborah Ward, president of the Pennsylvania Grant Development Network, together presented an informational workshop on the “Three Keys to Great Grant Writing.”

The breakout sessions for the conference were arranged around five different management tracks—Leadership and Vision, Purchasing and Business Practices, Integration and Technical Support, Human Resources and Professional Development, and Accountability and Communications.

More than 30 breakout sessions were presented over a three-day span. Two of the best-attended were “Effective Strategies for Technology Integration,” led by New Jersey Superintendent Raymond Farely and Kansas IT director Bob Moore, and “Emerging School Technologies: The Management Perspective,” in which Heather Boyles of the Internet2 initiative and Mark Cowtan of discussed what’s on the horizon for the internet and distance learning.

A large group also attended “Prurience, Piracy, and Privacy: Technology’s Impact on Ethics and School Law.” David Sobel, legal counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and David Splitt, a school law attorney and ethics and law columnist for eSchool News, initiated a lively debate over the ethical issues surrounding the use of filtering software and other legal issues pertinent to school technology management.

“Encouraging Reluctant Teachers: Staff Development Strategies that Work,” also led by Collins, drew a large crowd eager to learn how administrators can initiate and model the use of technology in their districts to encourage professional development among teachers.

Attendee Kim Hayes of the Victorville, Calif., School District commented that the issues she had come to learn more about were addressed at sessions like this one. “There were lots of good sessions on teacher training and staff development,” she said.

Other session highlights included a spirited two-part discussion on “Making the Web an Integral Part of School Communications,” presented by Carr and Elliott Levine, director of communications for Lawrence Public Schools in New York, in which participants received tips on how to create an effective and educational web site for their schools.

Carr and Levine also discussed the benefits of having such a site during times of crisis, as was highlighted by the exceptional Columbine High School web site that provided hourly updates for parents and stakeholders during the school’s shooting incident last April.

Another popular session was led by The Hill School’s chief information officer, Rick Bauer, who instructed his group on “The Art of the School Technology Deal.” During his presentation, Bauer personally donned the many hats—both literally and figuratively—that technology coordinators must wear to successfully navigate purchasing for K-12 schools.

Distinguished lecturers

The School Technology Management Conference drew five of the country’s premier leaders in the field of educational technology as distinguished lecturers.

Christopher Dede, professor of educational technology at George Mason University in Virginia, kicked off the first day of sessions by outlining his vision for the future of school technology. Some major goals Dede says educators must embrace include the un-learning of traditional teaching techniques, ongoing support for educators, mastering technology through next-generation standards, using multiple measures to gauge performance, and creating a level playing field for all students.

Though most school districts cite cost as a major barrier to technology implementation, Dede said this is because they’re not approaching change as systemic in nature.

“When school districts ask the question, ‘How can we afford all this,’ the real question they’re asking is, ‘…without changing anything else?'” he said. In reality, he added, when change is systemic, schools can afford it by cutting costs in other areas such as textbooks, staff for data management, and re-teaching the same content.

Allen Schmieder, vice president of JDL Technologies and the 1998 Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) Presidential Awardee in Technology, agreed with Dede that we must re-think how we assess student learning to gauge technology’s success in education.

“We’re trying to use 19th century measures to assess 21st century achievements, and that’s wrong,” Schmieder said. “Technology isn’t just a tool, yet that’s how we still approach it. [In reality,] it’s a whole new way of looking at fields of knowledge.”

Schmieder also said early intervention isn’t enough of a priority in our educational system, particularly when it comes to educational technology. “Elementary schools are the most critical point for establishing the learning habits of students—yet these often get the ‘hand-me-down’ technology of a district,” he said.

Douglas Van Houweling, president of the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development—the group behind the Internet2 (I2) project to provide high-speed connectivity for advanced research applications—had some important news for attendees: As of the previous week, the group had voted to allow K-12 schools to partner with member universities to enjoy the same privileges as these leading research institutions. Van Houweling also outlined some of the initiatives currently under way at I2 member universities nationwide.

Linda Roberts, White House advisor on school technology, also addressed the conference. Roberts briefed attendees on the state of the budget debate in Congress, including efforts under way in the U.S. House of Representatives to cut federal technology funding by as much as 20 percent. But she also expressed optimism for the future of the eRate, the federal program that gives telecommunications discounts to schools and libraries.

John Gage, chief science officer for Sun Microsystems and one of the original founders of the Net Day initiative, wrapped up the event by discussing the promise that technology holds for education in the next century.

Exhibitor news

Down in the exhibit hall, the “Millennium-Ready School Technology Command Center” drew rave reviews from educators. The center contained a working model of a school district network operations center (NOC), complete with the latest hardware and software to monitor and control network traffic, desktop applications, HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) systems, fire protection systems, and security systems from a single office location.

Engineers from JDL Technologies, which took a leadership role in designing and building the command center, demonstrated the equipment by monitoring and controlling the flow of network traffic across the entire exhibit floor.

“This gives us the ability to see a failing network card before it actually fails, so we can replace it before it brings down the entire network,” said Thomas Lapping, JDL president. “If school districts aren’t monitoring their networks, they can’t see what’s going on until it’s too late. It’d be like building a city and not monitoring the traffic patterns on the streets.”

Some of the command center’s components are quite easy and inexpensive to install. Dartmouth University’s InterMapper, for example, is priced around $400 for schools. With InterMapper, which runs on Macintosh computers, you can make maps of your network and see the state of your network at a glance. The software will even notify you by eMail or page when a device goes off-line or your network experiences trouble.

School Technology Management 2000 was co-sponsored by Dell Computer Corp., with additional support from Adobe Systems Inc., Symbol Technologies Inc., JDL Technologies, FamilyEducation Network, and Daly Computers.

Based on the reception to the premier edition, the School Technology Management Conference will become an annual fall event, conference organizers said.

Other highlights from the exhibit hall:

AbleSoft Inc. demonstrated its flagship product, Teacher’s Toolbox, an easy-to-use and affordable classroom management software system for teachers. The software is sold at retail in single units and through site licenses to schools and school districts.

ACE Software Inc. announced that it would give away the application to its ADM-2000 package of K-12 school administrative software free for a limited time. School districts will incur costs for the database and client-server software, but ACE Software will provide a 30 percent educational discount on those items. (Optional annual maintenance, conversion, and training costs are not included in the offer.) ADM-2000 is a simple, flexible, and powerful browser-based solution to all aspects of school management—from grades and scheduling to medical and discipline information.

Adobe Systems Inc. announced the launch of a new education web site. The site offers special education licensing on Adobe software, volume licensing programs, and other resources for educators. Adobe also showed off its latest creation, InDesign, a sophisticated page layout and graphic design utility that gives users unprecedented creative freedom, according to Adobe.

American School Directory, a database of more than 70,000 school web sites nationwide, demonstrated its free services to K-12 schools, including The Education Connection, a web portal site for educators with links to curriculum and leadership resources; School Product Guide, a listing of K-12 products and services grouped according to 13 categories; and free eMail for students and educators.

AWS Inc. demonstrated its two leading K-12 services: AirWatch, a state-of-the-art, real-time weather monitoring station, and InstaSports, a web hosting service for communicating local scholastic sports information.

Blackboard Inc. demonstrated its platforms for teaching and learning over the internet, which allow schools to host single-course web sites with, multiple courses with Blackboard CourseInfo, and entire online campuses with Blackboard Campus.

Boxlight Corp. displayed its presentation solutions for the K-12 market, including LCD projectors, DLP projectors, plasma displays, projector accessories, teleconferencing systems, and presentation training.

Brother International Corp. displayed its new line of education products for the coming year, including the latest versions of its GeoBook, a low-cost laptop computer for students priced from $399 to $549. Also shown were the company’s new Cool Laminator and StampCreator devices.

CD International Inc. displayed its Virtual Jukebox line of products that let schools access CD and DVD data over their networks faster and more reliably than with conventional mechanical jukeboxes and at no extra cost, according to the company. CD International offers four solutions that can store from 75 to 500 CDs.

Chancery Software announced that it will be entering the “parent portal” market with a new web site that will leverage information from Chancery’s existing student information system, Open District, bringing parents back to the site for biweekly updates on their children’s progress. The site will be driven directly by Open District, so no additional entry of student data will be required. A beta version of the service will be ready for December, and Chancery hopes to release version 1.0 in March.

Cognizant Systems introduced Scholar’s Edge, a program that allows teachers to create computer-based exercises and assessments that are specific to their curriculum goals. Teachers can set the criteria for how they want a lesson presented and scored; for example, they can choose to provide hints if a student needs help, or they can assign different weights to each question. The system runs on any Windows-based PC with 25 MB of free hard drive space and 32 MB RAM.

Dell Computer Corp. demonstrated its OptiPlex desktops, Latitude portables, and PowerEdge servers. Dell also showed its industry-leading online purchasing programs, including “premier” pages that are custom-built for Dell customers and web-based state education stores that show state-specific education pricing for states that include Dell products in their master contracts.

DK Interactive Learning displayed its award-winning software titles, including The Way Things Work, Pinball Science, My First Amazing World Explorer 2.0, I LOVE MATH, Amazing Animals, Eyewitness Children’s Encyclopedia, and Eyewitness Encyclopedia of Nature 2.0.

EarthWalk Communications Inc. announced a no-cost, no-obligation evaluation of its new eBuddy wireless student notebook computer. The device runs on a Pentium 266 MHz processor with Windows 98 and integrated wireless transmitter-receiver circuitry. EarthWalk also displayed its SmartCart computer lab on wheels and 27-inch Hitachi MMV large-screen color TV/monitor.

EBSCO Publishing unveiled a new online learning community, EBSCO School ResourceNet (ESRN), that combines curriculum assessment and reference resources with management and communication tools. Through ESRN, teachers can construct online assignments and lesson plans, manage class lists, communicate with parents and students by eMail, and track and monitor student progress; parents can communicate with teachers and view their children’s progress and grades; students can retrieve and complete assignments and communicate with teachers from any workstation with access to the web; and administrators can easily manage school information, monitor student progress, view various reports, and more.

Educational Technology LLC presented Chaperon, an internet management tool with filtering and notification capabilities, and eTrack, a web-based software program designed to keep school systems running smoothly with less paperwork.

EduTek Education Solutions featured its line of wireless networking solutions for schools, including “Classroom-In-A-Cart,” a mobile computer lab. The company also offers technology planning and implementation to K-12 schools.

Enterprises Computer Services Inc. (ECS) demonstrated its web-based administration software solutions for school districts, including modules to manage capital outlay, student records, child nutrition, and grants accounting.

FamilyEducation Network unveiled several new services for educators, including School webBoost, a free service that lets schools with existing web sites link into its network of school sites;, a one-stop shop for teacher resources; and, a free eMail service for parents, educators, and students.

FutureKids Inc. announced the availability of new “Teacher and Student Technology Competency Exams.” The exams, developed and tested by Idaho’s Boise State University, provide a valid and reliable assessment of technology skills in ten basic areas such as word processing, spreadsheets, databases, and desktop publishing, according to FutureKids. When administered at a school, the exams generate data about the technology literacy of teachers, and their ability to use technology in the classroom; the technology literacy of students, and their ability to use technology in real-world applications; and the technology infrastructure of the school. Schools then receive comparative data with other schools in the country and a consultative review of their existing technology plan, the company said.

H45 Technology showcased its QuickPAD product, a wireless keyboard with built-in word processing capabilities. The unit is Macintosh and PC compatible and is intended to be a cost-effective way to help students improve their writing and keyboarding skills.

I.T. Xchange highlighted its sale of surplus, discontinued, and refurbished computer hardware at discount prices to schools. The company focuses on name-brand products, including IBM, Compaq, Hewlett Packard, Toshiba, and NEC.

Iconix International Inc. demonstrated it UserNet software, a Windows-based educational interface for Novell NetWare networks. UserNet consolidates many system functions into an easy-to-use graphical interface, allowing educators to leverage all the tools of a powerful Novell network without any network knowledge or training.

The Image Group showcased its marketing and communications services for K-12 districts, including web site consulting and comprehensive public relations planning.

Inspiration Software Inc. demonstrated its visual learning software that helps students organize their thinking. The software integrates dynamic visual mapping and outlining environments to help students comprehend concepts and create clear, concise writing.

Intelligent Peripheral Devices Inc. (IPD) demonstrated its Alphasmart 2000, a portable keyboard or note-taker that is compatible with any Macintosh or PC. The cost-effective device enables students to practice keyboarding, writing, and electronically stores notes and reports. The product has an optional industry standard interface that allows wireless transfer between the Alphasmart and a computer or printer.

Internet Products Inc. presented its web filtering solution, a plug-and-play web server called InterGate. The device integrates the features of a web server, eMail server, web filter, caching server, proxy server, firewall, and file transfer protocol server in a single, easy-to-use product.

JDL Technologies showcased its networking, training, and systems integration services for K-12 schools. The company also demonstrated its K-12 World line of products, including CyberLibrary, SmartFilter, and Satellite Server.

Kaetron Software Corp. introduced a free web service for schools called “Cram Jam: Homework on the Web.” Using this product, teachers can post assignments and provide information about tests, projects, and meetings with no knowledge of hypertext markup language (HTML) required. Students can use Cram Jam to retrieve weekly assignments from any internet-connected computer with the click of a button. Teachers, students, and parents can create their own secure accounts to provide personalized information.

MC2 Learning Systems Inc. demonstrated its collaborative online educational tools, including Zebu, which provides a secure, web-based environment for creating projects and sharing resources, and FirstClass, which helps create shared spaces where teachers and students can communicate, post documents, and publish on the web.

N2H2 Inc. highlighted its popular Bess filtering system and Searchopolis kid-safe search engine. School districts that agree to use Searchopolis and display K-12 appropriate advertising on web pages can take part in a voluntary discount offer on Bess that will result in the possibility of free filtering after one year. The company also announced that Searchopolis was rated the No. 1 kids’ search engine by Children’s Software Revue, placing ahead of Yahooligans, Ask Jeeves for Kids, and AOL’s NetFind Kids Only.

National Computer Systems Inc. (NCS) demonstrated its financial management, student records management, instructional and curriculum management, electronic document management, and testing software. The company’s ParentCONNECTxp is a web-based program that gives parents access to their children’s grades, attendance, assignments, and discipline records over the internet.

NetVentures introduced, a new online support and training center for school districts. With PC-HMO’s fee-based subscription service, districts will receive 24-hour, seven-day-a-week “help desk” support; anytime, anywhere access to an online knowledge base of tech support resources; and online training courses to help reduce overall support costs.

NewDeal Inc. featured its award-winning SchoolSuite software, which promises to give new life to old PCs through a complete set of integrated point-and-click applications that require only 10 MB of free hard disk space and 640K in memory. The software provides word processing, web browsing, spreadsheet, and database applications that run through a graphic user interface on machines as old as a 286 or 386, the company said.

Nextel Communications presented a package of eRate-eligible cellular services for K-12 schools. The company’s wireless phones provide three ways to communicate: Direct Connect, which lets users contact from one to 100 colleagues instantly, with just the push of a button; digital cellular; and text paging.

Nordex International introduced Nordex School, a cross-platform school administration system that includes student record management, attendance tracking, discipline tracking, grade reporting, and a master schedule builder. The software also features a district-wide component.

Palisade Systems highlighted its internet and network management, security, and monitoring systems. The company’s ScreenDoor Internet Management Server provides a mechanism for undetectable enforcement of acceptable use policies, according to Palisade.

PowerQuest introduced its Academic Technician Power Pack, designed to expand the efficiency of school administrative computing.

PowerSchool LLC demonstrated its web-based school management system, PowerSchool. The product promises to handle management functions in the district office, school office, and classroom with just a single server. PowerSchool maintains schedules, grades, and attendance for schools of any size on any platform., a new virtual community for schools, chose the School Technology Management Conference to officially launch its free service. The service provides teachers, students, and parents with a comprehensive array of online tools, curriculum-focused content, educational links and resources, and eCommerce capabilities. Designed initially for middle and high schools, offers services such as template-based web site building, web site hosting, eMail, filtered public and private chat rooms and forums, and distributed web publishing capabilities. An eCommerce element allows schools to create virtual school stores, and they can keep any revenue earned through the site.

SMART Technologies demonstrated its SMART Board interactive whiteboard; SMART Expression, a mobile multimedia cabinet; and SynchronEyes, classroom instruction and computer-control software that uses a school’s existing network to help educators monitor and control computers, deliver software demonstrations, and focus students’ attention.

SmartStuff Software introduced FoolProof Qube, a Linux-based hardware and software internet server appliance that provides the capabilities to safely and efficiently connect a school to the internet at a fraction of the cost of general-purpose servers. SmartStuff also demonstrated the rest of its FoolProof line of internet and network security products, including FoolProof Internet and FoolProof Security.

Spectrum Industries displayed its modular computer lab furniture designed specifically for schools. The furniture includes a system that organizes and controls the maze of computer cables and cords.

Symbol Technologies showcased its Spectrum 24 wireless technology and the school-based applications it can support, including WLAN infrastructure, voice-over-IP communications, and mobile handheld phones and computers.

Tangent Computer displayed its extensive line of personal computers, notebooks, desktops, mid-towers, enterprise file servers, and other networking solutions.

Teacher Created Materials introduced TechWorks, an innovative program that helps teachers integrate technology skills into the curriculum for students in grades K-8. TechWorks is the first comprehensive program to introduce technology skills at appropriate grade levels while linking them with other skills and concepts being taught, the company said.

Teacher Universe highlighted its instructor-led and web-based professional development courses for educators and its instructional technology planning services for K-12 schools.

The Library Corporation (TLC) presented Library Solution, a fully integrated library automation system; Library Request, which promises to ease the administrative burden of inter-library loans; and Library Acquire, an acquisitions management system.

Update Software demonstrated its WebBuilder software, which helps schools create and enhance effective web and intranet sites without any knowledge of HTML.

Word of Mouse introduced a hassle-free, no-charge mousepad replacement program geared specifically for K-12 schools. The company supplies schools with high-quality, hardtop mousepads for free because the company’s sponsors subsidize the cost of the program.

Youthline-USA exhibited its weekly newspaper for kids, which features international and national news, feature articles, and letters to the editor, just like an adult newspaper. The company also is building a unique, safe, and productive internet-based educational service for K-12 teachers, librarians, parents, and children.


Sympathy for Goliath

You can tell somebody is in trouble nowadays when the national news media begin referring to him by his full name: William Jefferson Clinton, Orenthal James Simpson, Thomas Penfield Jackson.

That third three-name man is, of course, the U.S. District Court judge whose finding in the Microsoft case sent frissons racing up spines from Silicon Valley in San Jose, Calif., to Silicon Alley in New York City. As our front page story details, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson found that Microsoft is indeed a monopoly, did take predatory action against potential rivals, and has harmed consumers with its monopolistic practices.

What might be notable here: It’s the judge being called three names. In Redmond, Wash., to be sure, Judge Jackson is being called even more names than that. That’s understandable. But remarkably enough, the same might be true even in towns that are not the world headquarters of the software Goliath.

More people own Microsoft stock, financial analysts say, than any other company on the planet. In fact, if you have retirement money in mutual funds, you probably own shares of Microsoft yourself. So central to the U.S. economy has this behemoth become that the firm recently bumped off other blue-chip corporations to become one the companies whose stock prices are tracked to compute the Dow Jones Average.

Reactions to Judge Jackson’s finding are worth pondering. To the folks at the Justice Department, the finding comes as a much-needed win amid recriminations about the conduct of federal officers and incessant calls for the head of Attorney General Janet Reno. One look at the beaming faces of Reno and her top trust buster, Joe Klein (see Page One), tells you all you need to know about the reaction at Justice.

The denizens of the digital domain and those technofiles known collectively as the digerati seemed, by and large, to take a not-so-secret glee in the prospect that the king might lose his head—or at least some prized parts of his corporate anatomy.

Yet on Wall Street, the Microsoft news caused barely a ripple. The software maker’s stock price dipped momentarily but by only a few dollars per share. Then Microsoft stock righted itself and continued to cruise along, hovering calmly just above the mid-range of its best and worst daily prices for the year.

Among the elite of education technology—the readers of eSchool News and the visitors to “eSchool News Online”—the reaction was fluid. Immediately following the news of the judge’s finding, according to the straw poll we conducted on our web site <>, school technology leaders weighed in on the side of Microsoft. That plurality shifted in intervening days until, at press time, the plurality of responding educators wanted the courts to break up the software giant. Yet, even then, the second most favored reaction out of four possibilities was to “do nothing” about Microsoft’s monopoly.

The public at large appeared still more supportive. In a November 10 Gallup poll, 68 percent of those questioned had a favorable impression of Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, compared to 19 percent whose opinions were unfavorable. Those findings were roughly comparable to the post-Halloween ratings Americans gave front-running presidential candidate George W. Bush.

More to the point, over two-thirds of the American public saw Microsoft in a favorable light right after the judge’s finding, the highest rating since Gallup began keeping score. Among computer users, 78 percent backed Microsoft.

More than half (54 percent) of those polled said they would oppose any move to break Microsoft up into smaller companies. Among computer users, the percentage opposed to a breakup was 58 percent.

Nobody really knows what might be behind such findings. Some believe the sympathy for the mega-monopoly is inspired by its unpopular adversary, the U.S. Justice Department. Others think it’s because people are worried about the adverse affects meddling with Microsoft could have on their investments and on the U.S. economy as a whole. Still others suppose the public supports Microsoft because of its role in imposing a semblance of order on previously unweildy and incompatible software. Microsoft makes high tech safe for the masses, say the pundits.

Or maybe it’s just Bill Gates. He seems like such a nice boy, kind of like the slightly bemused but well-meaning math teacher just down the hall.

Whatever accounts for the public support, Microsoft’s backers probably don’t need to worry for a while—at least not until the news media begin referring to Microsoft’s CEO as William Goliath Gates.


Here’s help finding a student information system that will make the grade2K readiness show that schools won’t be as prepared as they thought.

Well, I’m almost done. For the past three months, I’ve been implementing a client-server student records management system to replace our home-grown legacy system. Looking back on the whole process, I’m beginning to feel like I just gave birth.

Notwithstanding the fact that my wife, who is due in January, says there’s no comparison, I can honestly say that this conversion has been the most challenging thing I’ve had to do in my career. I’d also be lying if I said that I fully comprehended the complexity of such a project when I first started. In fact, it was a long and tedious road with technical challenges, political pitfalls, and resistant colleagues lurking around every turn.

Those of you contemplating a student records system conversion will soon see that the technical issues are the least of your problems. These are the ones that you have the most control over. It won’t be long before you realize that the issues which are not quite so controllable—like job descriptions, workflow, and technically challenged employees—can make even the most complex technical problems look like child’s play.

The fact is, your student records system is the heart of your entire operation. No other collection of data touches, and is touched by, a broader range of people. Simply put, it plays a role in almost everything that goes on at the school. Thus, uprooting and replacing this system will have a huge impact on a large number of people in your school.

Many people who have limited technical skills will find this change daunting, and since all people naturally resist change of any kind, a project of this magnitude is going to have repercussions almost everywhere.

The news isn’t all bad, however. While a student database conversion offers unprecedented challenges, it also offers some unique opportunities to evaluate data and revise procedures. To take advantage of these opportunities, though, project leaders and technology directors must carefully evaluate products to find the one that fits best. Additionally, they must anticipate some of the human, as well as technical, challenges that invariably will present themselves.

Here are some issues that bear consideration when you’re choosing and implementing a new student records management system:

When evaluating a product for purchase, form a committee of end users and visit sites where that product is being used. Most vendors will be happy to share a client list with you, but don’t rely solely on this. You’re more likely to root out unhappy customers by posting to listservs and searching the web.

If you begin your planning well enough in advance, you can make several visits at the most opportune times, such as the day they build the schedules, the day they print report cards, or the day they send out mass mailings. This will give you an intimate look at the product, with all its warts.

Here’s where your team members should ask the truly valuable questions of their counterparts at the demo school, such as, “What was the biggest challenge in the conversion of your old data?” and “What do you wish the system could do that it doesn’t?” Questions like these will give you first-hand information from the people that use the product every day, allowing your end users to compare how such a system would fit into their own world.

See if you can attend the vendor’s training workshops before you actually make the purchase. Not only will this give you a “hands-on” experience with the software; it will also give you insight into the methods the company recommends that you use with its product. In such a setting, you can ask the instructor how he or she would handle a situation unique to your schools. You might even be able to model the instructor’s advice in the workshop to see if it would work in your case. These are great opportunities to identify red flags about the compatibility of a particular system and your institution.

Identify key features that are important to you. Internet connectivity, wireless networking, bar coding, and telephone integration give schools the ability to have faster access to student data, store a wider variety of information, and streamline communication between students, faculty, and parents.

Consider more than the technical merits of a product. Obviously, the product has to be technically sound, but be very careful that the solution you choose isn’t more cumbersome to the end user than the one you already have in place. The amount of time you’ll spend managing the system is relatively small compared to the amount of time the end user will spend working on it. Look carefully at the procedures for scheduling, printing report cards, and entering attendance, and involve others in the evaluation and decision-making process.

Use add-on essentials to negotiate price by asking for free training or free support. Also, negotiate price on the last day of fiscal quarters, when sales reps may be under pressure to meet quotas.

Make sure you completely understand what is, and is not, customizable. Some packages offer custom report capabilities, but their report-writing software will only work on exported, rather than live, data.

Realize that if you are purchasing shrink-wrapped software, it will never completely match your current way of doing things. You must either be prepared to change operational procedures, or write some simple programs yourself to fill the gaps.

Choose a vendor with a proven track record for customer support. Be sure to understand the policy for resolution and escalation of issues. Call the company’s support line during peak hours to see how long they keep you on hold.

Sell your decision to your users and administration. Identify and promote areas of the product where users will save time immediately despite initial learning curve challenges, such as Scantron attendance or report cards that can be printed for windowed or carbon envelopes.

Before implementing the new system, map out the workflow under your current system. Track all the data that is entered by identifying who inputs each piece of data and in what order. Identify each type of report or output that is currently produced and why. Use this information to identify where workflow will need to change and where new features might lighten workloads.

Try to unify as many databases as you can. When data is entered more than once, the chance for error increases exponentially. Some schools have one data management system for guidance, another for lunch, still another for schedules and grades—and perhaps up to seven or eight more systems. Try to find a system that can assume the function of those other databases, or see if you can automate the replication of that data from a single, central location and share it among all your databases.

Scrub your data before brining it into the new system. For example, when we were bringing our emergency contact information over from the old system, some of our data conflicted, and we spent a lot of time clarifying which parent was the primary contact. In other cases, we had to sort out different last names listed for the same person whose marital status had changed. The end result was much more reliable data, but it took a bit of work to clean it up.

Contract with your vendor to provide “just in time” training for everyone who will use the new system. If training will occur at the vendor’s location, see if you can have your staff trained on a sample of your own data. Be sure to ask trainers about scheduling and grading issues that might make your school unique.

If you’ve recently done a student records system implementation and would like to share some challenges you dealt with in the process, you can drop me a note at If you work at a private school and are considering such an implementation, and you’d like to read my review of the product we use, you can find it at


Take the guesswork out of federal grant seeking with this new resource

If you’re planning to apply for any federal Department of Education (ED) grants between now and September 30, 2000, there’s a web site you should visit as soon as possible. It’s the “ED Grants Forecast” site, and it lists the programs and competitions under which ED has invited or expects to invite applications for new awards in fiscal year 2000.

The forecast is intended as a guide for individuals who expect to respond to upcoming grant competitions. It’s important to note that the forecast is advisory only and should not be regarded as an official application notice from ED. The official application notice that is complete and authoritative is the notice that appears in the Federal Register.

The Grants Forecast site contains programs and competitions which are organized by ED’s six principal offices: the Office of Bilingual Education; the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI); the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE); the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE); the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS); and the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE).

When you visit the site, you will find easy-to-read charts that contain several pieces of critical information for each program, including:

• The actual or estimated dates when applications will be available;

• The estimated number and size of awards; and

• Who to contact for an application.

You will see that each funding opportunity has a “CFDA” number attached to it. This stands for “Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance,” which is an enormous document containing brief summaries of each of the federal government’s discretionary grant programs. The number assigned to each funding opportunity tells you where to look in the catalog for information about that specific program.

Go to the forecast web site now if you’re thinking of applying for any ED grants this year! The forecast is an excellent planning tool that will enable you to create timelines which will give you ample time to put together fundable proposals.

For example, using the information in the charts, you can plan ahead for the grants you want to apply for by contacting the program officer and adding your name to the mailing list. This will let you receive notices about workshops and a copy of this year’s application when it becomes available. You can also ask for a copy of last year’s request for proposals (RFP) to get a sense of what you will have to put together in your application.

You should also ask the program officer if you can have copies of previously funded proposals or the names and contact information for winners of past competitions. That way, you can contact the winners directly and request a copy of their funded proposal. You can also ask them about the readers’ comments they received and the process of applying for federal funding. Previous winners may also be able to give you some “inside tips” on how to increase your chances of getting funded.

As you look at the grants forecast, remember also that technology initiatives can be funded in a wide variety of grant programs, so don’t look solely for those programs with “technology” in the title.

ED plans to update this grants forecast several times over the next six months to include any newly authorized programs and any revised dates or estimates. For example, the department expects to provide updates in the first week of January, March, and May 2000. Be sure to check the web site periodically for this updated information.

If you want to keep up to date about everything that happens at ED, I strongly urge you to subscribe to the EDInfo listserv. Send an eMail to with the words SUBSCRIBE EDINFO [YOURFIRSTNAME] [YOURLASTNAME] in the body of the message. If you have any questions about EDInfo, contact Kirk Winters at

I hope your “grants forecast” is mostly sunny!


Sophisticated portal site gives educators a window into students’ personal circumstances

To ensure that its at-risk students have a better chance to succeed, Hine Junior High School in Washington, D.C., is using a sophisticated web-based portal system to track a wide range of student information. District officials say the portal system, which is being provided by Sequoia Software Corp. of Columbia, Md., could serve as a model for use throughout the city.

Called the Education and Youth Services (EYS) portal, the system uses Sequoia’s XML Portal software to create a central gateway for administrators, teachers, counselors, and youth services personnel to access comprehensive information about students. The project’s organizers say the portal will allow them to make more informed decisions based on a student’s overall situation and will let them tailor their efforts to meet students’ specific needs.

“School administrators, counselors, and teachers need quick access to all academic and personal information on students so they can make better decisions,” explained Bennie F. Adams, Hine Junior High School principal.

With Sequoia’s XML Portal software, student data—such as demographic background, test scores, grade point averages, attendance, special education, and discipline records—can be retrieved for each student from multiple databases and applications, then combined into easy-to-read portfolios.

The XML Portal uses extensible markup language (XML), a more sophisticated version of hypertext markup language (HTML), to bridge structured and unstructured data from disparate sources and to provide a personalized web interface from which users can quickly and easily search for, retrieve, and act on information.

Because of its XML indexing engine, the EYS portal has very specific tagging capabilities that result in fast, accurate searches, according to Sequoia. Users will no longer have to spend valuable time drilling down through numerous links or navigating multiple systems to find the information they need to make quick, effective decisions.

“The EYS portal creates an overall picture which enables authorized school and youth services personnel to focus on boosting student performance, rather than gathering information,” Adams said. “This is a wonderful example of schools adopting the latest corporate and web technologies to improve education.”

The EYS portal project is being managed by FutureNET Solutions Inc. of Washington, which is providing project consulting, systems integration, and web development services together with i3solutions Inc. of nearby Sterling, Va. The pilot implementation at Hine Junior High School will demonstrate the benefits of portal technology to other public education and youth services organizations throughout the D.C. area.

“This effort continues our tradition of adapting leading-edge web and communications technology to the challenges of K-12 education,” said Joseph Davis, chief technology officer for FutureNET Solutions, which has worked with Hine on past technology projects. “With Sequoia’s XML portal software and i3solutions’ web development expertise, we have assembled a unique team capable of harnessing portal and web technology to improve K-12 education and youth services delivery.”

The project is being implemented in stages. At first, only school administrators and counselors will have access to the information. But at Hine the hardware is in place and every classroom in the school is connected to a network, so the portal eventually will reach teachers’ desktops.

As for training staff in how to use the portal, Davis said that if the implementation is done right, the system will be fairly straightforward to use, with minimal training needed for the school’s 40-plus teachers.

Hine Junior High School caters to 725 students in grades 7-9. The school, whose motto is “Reaching Higher Standards Through Using Technology,” is setting a standard in the District of Columbia with its technology integration efforts. In addition to improving student achievement, Hine is also dedicated to using technology to improve parental and community involvement, school officials said.


A look inside the news that affects the companies you do business with

Jostens Learning executive tapped for President’s council

Sue Collins, senior vice president for software maker Jostens Learning Corp., was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the newly formed web-based Education Commission. Collins was one of only three presidential nominees named to the 14-person commission.

During the next six months, the commission will conduct research and hold public hearings in order to recommend an appropriate federal role in evaluating the quality of educational software products to the president and Congress.

With more than 30 years of experience as a teacher, district and state administrator, and hardware and software company executive, Collins is widely acknowledged as a long-time leader in educational technology.

“I am pleased that the government has asked us to gather opinions and suggestions from knowledgeable people in education and business,” Collins said. “Any decisions made that can help students reach their full potential should always be made with input from the people closest to the children, including parents. We plan to do just that on a very aggressive timetable.”

In addition to the Commission appointment, Collins serves on the Board of Directors of the national Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), the SIIA’s Government Affairs Council, and chairs the SIIA’s Education and Workforce Development Committee. She also is a staff advisor to the CEO Forum on Education and Technology, which issues annual reports assessing the nation’s progress toward integrating technology into America’s classrooms.

As senior VP at Jostens Learning, Collins oversees the Marketing, Strategic Planning, and Professional Development Division. Previously, she served as director of the North American Education Division for Compaq Computer

Corp. and before that was manager of strategic initiatives for the Education Division of Apple Computer.

Jostens Learning Corp. is one of the world-wide leaders in the educational software and services industry. It is recognized for its complete standards-based K-12 curriculum and industry-leading flexible and open assessment systems, which enable teachers to effectively manage program integration and track student progress.

The San Diego-based company is owned by Ripplewood Holdings LLC in New York, a private equity investment firm that builds partnerships in various industries and, with its partners, controls companies with annual revenues in excess of $6 billion.

Education software pioneer Fortune out as chief of CCC

Educational software maker Computer Curriculum Corp. (CCC) announced Nov. 5 that Ronald Fortune has resigned as president and chief executive officer of the company.

Fortune, one of the few black CEOs of a school technology company, played a major role in developing CCC into a leading supplier of software and technical and professional development services to the K-12 market during his 20-year tenure. He will remain as a consultant to CCC until the end of the year, according to a company press release.

Under Fortune’s leadership, CCC’s software has been installed in more than 16,000 schools and has been used by more than 10 million students worldwide, according to the company.

Peter Jovanovich, chief executive officer of Pearson Education, will act as CCC’s president and CEO until Fortune’s successor is appointed.

“I want to express [my] strongest commitment to CCC’s future,” Jovanovich stated, “and to that end, I will be spending a great deal of time with CCC working with the management team to identify solutions and strategies that expand the deployment and extend the value of CCC’s products and services throughout the educational marketplace.”

Pearson Education is a division of international media company Pearson PLC, which bought CCC from Viacom about a year ago. In addition to CCC, Pearson Education’s imprints include Prentice Hall, Addison-Wesley, Scott Foresman, Allyn & Bacon, Macmillan, and Longman.

It’s far too early for analysts to speculate how Fortune’s departure will affect the company, but Peter Grunwald, president of market research firm Grunwald Associates, told eSchool News that whatever happens is sure to have an impact on schools.

“CCC has clearly been one of the pioneers in terms of computer mediated instruction in schools,” Grunwald noted, “and as a result, whatever happens to CCC is likely to affect the education market.”

A spokeswoman from CCC said no time frame has been set for when Jovanovich would be turning the reins over to a regular president and CEO.


This month’s very best web sites for teaching, learning and leading.


Best new instructional resources on the internet

Bring literacy to life with the “English Companion”

Created by teacher and author Jim Burke, this site is designed to help English teachers find materials and ideas they can use in the classroom. English Companion included news articles relevant to teaching K-12 English and direct links to daily poems, daily words, literary resources, grant opportunities, conversation sites for English teachers, and other teaching tools. Also included are copies of various sabbatical projects, including those on test-taking skills, traits of effective readers, and state standards. The site’s Booktalk section allows students to rate and comment on specific books they have read and post their comments for others to read. Burke’s site also includes an interesting link to the Library of Congress’s Today in History page.

“Encyclopedia Britannica” is now free on the web

The Encyclopedia Britannica recently made its 32-volume set available for free on the internet. The 231-year-old company stopped door-to-door sales three years ago and now hopes to make money selling advertising on its site. The move might have been inevitable in an era when students doing homework are more likely to get their information from a computer than from a book. The web site also will offer current information from newspapers, news agencies, and 70 magazines—as well as eMail, weather forecasts, and financial market reports. The site’s considerable resources are laid out under fifteen categories—from Arts to World Issues—with appropriate subtitles under each. The research section of the site takes users directly to the best web sites related to a particular subject, plus related books, selections from magazines, and, of course, the complete Encyclopedia Britannica.

“Educational CyberPlayGround” makes learning (and playing) safe and easy

Despite all the resources and opportunities for education that the internet can provide, cyberspace can be a confusing place for new learners, parents, educators, and particularly teachers who have little experience on the rapidly growing world wide web. What do you do when a simple search can bring thousands of sites to evaluate? The main purpose of the Educational CyberPlayGround is to help all teachers, parents, librarians, homeschoolers, and regular folks—even those with little or no online experience—to use the internet effectively to aid teaching. The site provides easy-to-access links to educational sites and allows users to customize resources to fit their specific needs. In “The Education Vendor Directory,” users can find a unique database offering services available to internet travelers with an interest in education.

“Science Fair Central” is more than a fair site, the Discovery Channel’s award-winning educational web site, has launched a new feature designed to encourage interest and participation in science fair competitions across the country. One feature of the new site is its Science Fair Studio—the ultimate guide to science fair preparation for students, parents, and teachers. The Studio contains a comprehensive, step-by-step handbook for students, lists of great science fair project ideas, and links to online resources. It also features a bulletin board hosted by science fair expert, Janice VanCleave, author of more than 20 books on science projects and fairs. Science Fair Central also features Jake’s Attic, a special section for fun, try-at-home science projects that are safe for students to attempt.

Scholastic’s “Teacher’s Place in Cyberspace” is now free as well

Scholastic Inc. has re-launched its “Teacher’s Place in Cyberspace” at Formerly a subscription-based service, the new site now offers completely free resources for teachers. There are more web field trips than ever, thousands of classroom-tested lessons, age-appropriate news for kids, and unmatched author chats—including chats with J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. Offering more than 12,000 pages of rich curriculum content, is ideal for both the internet novice or the web-savvy educator. Other resources on the teachers’ page include tips on teaching with technology, classroom management, assessment, conference planning, and obtaining grants and funding.

Democracy and the digital age merge at “”

Created by social studies teachers, this free new web site offers schools a wide range of election features. Teachers can use the site to make a “mock” election that simulates the real election process. Another type of election, similar to a survey, allows the user to set up a ballot for the public. This election service is available for anyone to use. Searchable results of elections are posted on the site, or users can also request automatic eMail messages containing the results. Creating an election takes just a few minutes—you simply create a free account and set up the election to include as many ballot items as needed. says it is the only web site that offers free mock elections for schools.


Research and management resources for the K-12 decision maker

Find loads of resources inside the “teacherzone”

This web-based news and information service for elementary school teachers and principals is all about technology in education: how to get it, use it, cope with it if you don’t like it, advance it if you’re in love with it, and integrate it into the learning process. At the site, teachers will find resources for using the internet in the classroom, lesson plans for incorporating technology, and job search resources, among other things. Principals can find useful information in the Principal Vision section. There are also special reports, such as the one on the Y2K glitch, and hundreds of links to elementary schools, as well as sites for and by kids.

“Looking at Student Work” seeks to improve education

Hosted by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, this web site is offered as a resource for teachers, administrators, staff developers, and others in education. The site is the result of a 1998 meeting held by the institute and the Chicago Learning Collaborative, in which a group of educators devised a set of practices they called “looking at student work.” The resulting web site provides ideas and resources regarding these practices. According to the site, the practices for looking at student work reflect three common principles: that students’ work in schools is serious work; that students’ work provides key data about the life of the school; and that the work of children and adults in school should be made public. Practices for looking at student work must be connected to serious changes in curriculum, instruction, and professional development, the site’s creators argue.

Glean ideas for your schools using Pennsylvania’s “Educational Technology Impact Analysis”

This new web site from the Pennsylvania Department of Education features best practice school districts that use technology effectively in the state. The project, known as the Educational Technology Impact Analysis, Objective 2, “Case Studies Documenting the Use of Technology In Pennsylvania Education,” presents 14 case studies of schools across Pennsylvania. The case studies profile technology projects in different educational settings, links to technology resources, and other information on the uses, evaluation, and growth of technology in education. The studies emphasize technology’s integration into the curriculum and how technology is being used as a tool to solve educational problems. The information presented on the site is derived from data collected between January and July of this year. The site is one of several research projects funded by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge last year that are investigating how technology is impacting education and student achievement.

CEO Forum expands its resources on the ‘net

The CEO Forum on Education and Technology has announced the availability of a new interactive resource on its revamped website, which allows anyone to determine the degree to which their school supports technology in the classroom. In 1997, the CEO Forum established a baseline measure for tracking the progress of American schools in integrating technology into classrooms nationwide. This School Technology and Readiness (STaR) Chart offered a snapshot of where the nation stood in its effort to integrate technology to improve academic standards and student achievement. This information was placed into an easily understandable chart which is updated annually. While this guide was developed in 1997, the interactive, self-assessment component was just recently created and posted on the Forum’s web site for all to use. The chart measures four variables: hardware and connectivity, content, professional development, and integration and use. Once the user completes 18 multiple choice questions, a score is given that indicates his or her school’s technology readiness on a scale of Low, Mid, High, or Target Tech.

Find answers to your computing and technology questions at CNET’s “”

Got computing or technology questions? CNET’s, a free new service, likely has your answers. At, you can find hundreds of thousands of computer and technology questions and answers, culled from Usenet newsgroups and submitted by users around the world. The best part is, it’s all free. Users can search a database of questions and answers or submit their own questions to the site’s worldwide community of computing experts. (Most questions are answered within 24 hours, CNET claims.) Or, you can browse the site’s directory of thousands of tips and how-tos, written by CNET editors, for more help with the hardware and software products you use every day in your schools. You can also find more resources on your favorite tech topics with the site’s Help Centers, where you’ll find everything from books to online classes to assisted tech support.

Proxima presents a new site for all your projector needs

Proxima Corp., a world leader in the multimedia projection industry, has launched a brand new eCommerce store—and the first site of its kind specifically designed to service the needs of presenters, according to the company. The goal of the site is to provide presenters with all the solutions and advice they need to perfect their presentations. The site offers the world’s best presentation products, online leasing programs, advice on how to keep presentations on track and audiences interested, news and stories from seasoned pros, free downloads to make presenting easier, and technical product evaluations from experts in their respective fields. The site’s GEC (Government, Education, and Corporate) Center offers the complete range of Proxima products and, based on the customer’s purchasing requirements, directs buyers to Proxima’s Reseller Channel. In addition to, Proxima continues to promote, the industry’s first presentation portal and resource center.