Technology-Middle school students produce network-quality newscasts

For the past year, students at Aviara Oaks Middle School in Carlsbad, Calif., have lived and breathed television. But these 11- to 14-year-olds are not just sitting passively in front of their TV sets–they’re behind the camera, producing and broadcasting their own live news program.

Aviara Oaks offers an elective course that teaches students the art of television production. The students produce a news show every Monday morning that is broadcast throughout each classroom in the school, and then re-broadcast the following Wednesday on a local cable channel that reaches nearly 250,000 households.

The most exciting aspect of this course is that the students get hands-on experience learning how to report stories, operate cameras, and produce the entire show–using the same techniques and equipment found in sophisticated, real-world television studios. The show is called AOTV, and the students have profiled it on their web site (see link below).

Aviara Oaks wanted to give its students the chance to create television programs that have the look and feel of real network programs. The class’s instructor, Doug Green, also insisted that students learn the proper techniques using current technology so the course would present them with a true school-to-career opportunity.

Unfortunately, traditional studio equipment can easily cost more than $125,000–well out of reach for most schools’ budgets.

Three months before the school’s TV studio was to be built, however, Green came across a new video production system called Trinity from Play Inc. Trinity is an all-in-one, PC-based system that replaces an entire television studio full of equipment for a much lower cost–around $10,000 for a complete system.

“I wanted the students to produce television using the same tools that are used in the industry,” Green said. “I wanted them to become critical viewers of television by becoming ‘real providers’ of television. When I visited Play’s web site, I knew immediately this would fit the bill for us.”

Since buying the Trinity system in August 1998, AOTV has developed an entire curriculum based on each of Trinity’s features: a multi-camera switcher for live production, a chroma-keyer to superimpose the student anchors into sophisticated virtual environments, a character generator to add text over video, a graphics system to create broadcast news graphics, and an editing system.

While most school news shows consist of students reading a daily bulletin in front of a single camera, Aviara Oaks students are now producing a news program that rivals their local network affiliate in sophistication. A typical AOTV production includes announcers, music, student anchors reporting the news, live remote interviews from across campus, and pre-recorded packages complete with Hollywood-style special effects and customized graphics.

The show has received numerous awards–and quite a bit of publicity. Student reporters have interviewed several celebrity guests, including the late golfer Payne Stewart, professional skateboarder Tony Hawk, Trevor Hoffman from the San Diego Padres, Junior Seau from the San Diego Chargers, and a cameo appearance from Tiger Woods.

Last year, AOTV won more than $10,000 in prize and grant money from various educational institutions and programs. Most recently, the program was awarded a grant in excess of $3000 from a local cable system.

The AOTV course has become a favorite among students and has proven to be very popular in the school’s community. More importantly, the Aviara Oaks students are gaining first-hand knowledge from all sides of the television production environment and are enjoying the experience.

The experience “has given me something to look forward to at school every day,” said one eighth-grade student who works on the program.


Play Inc.


DataCard’s Imagecard HiFX Card Printer

DataCard Corp. recently announced the launch of a new desktop card printer for full-color printing. The ImageCard HiFX printer offers true edge-to-edge printing, color saturation, and image resolution that is comparable to offset printing, according to the company.

The printer was developed for “mission-critical” photo ID applications such as driver’s liscenses, national IDs, and high-security badges, but the product’s developers believe its card-printing features would be great for broader applications, including school IDs, library cards, and smart cards.

The new printer has been integrated with ID Works, DataCard’s modular and advanced photo ID software package. ImageCard HiFX first prints a composite, full-color image on a clear, intermediate transfer material, which is then bonded to the card surface using pressure and heat.
(800) 621-6972 ext. 6930


Union Catalog Plus 4.0

Educators and students can share library resources and electronic data with their entire school district using Follett Software Company’s Union Catalog Plus 4.0 for Windows.

The Union Catalog Plus software connects multiple libraries together electronically, permitting students and staff to access additional resources and information from other schools in their district. The program also eliminates redundant cataloging by allowing staff to exchange existing MARC records in the database.

“Students need access to the best information, whether it resides in their own school’s library or at another library in the district,” said Tom Schenck, president of Follett Software. “Union Catalog Plus makes it easy for them to locate that information no matter where it is, with minimal effort and time.”
(800) 323-3397


Zoom Wireless Networking Device

Using ZoomAir AP128, users can log on without plugging in. It’s the first release in a family of products from Zoom Telephonics Inc. that distribute high-speed internet connections to multiple computers using wireless local area networking.

The product connects to any Ethernet network with wireless networking speeds of 2 MB per second using the current 802.11 DSSS standard. It is easily upgradable and compatible with any 802.11 product.

The ZoomAir AP128 includes a detachable dipole antenna that services a range of 300 feet in a typical indoor office environment. ZoomAir also sells omni-directional and directional antennas that will extend the service up to a mile.

The AP128 is also an Internet Protocol (IP) router, providing 128 Kbps ISDN connections that can be used to connect multiple LANs and to provide shared internet access to wired and wireless clients.

The AP128 network comes with WebManage, an easy-to-use, HTML-based management software. WebManage allows remote configuration and management of the network over the internet using any web browser software. Administration of the LAN is further simplified by Dynamic Host Control Protocol (DHCP), which automatically assigns IP addresses to client computers.

The estimated retail price for the ZoomAir AP128 is $699.
(800) 631-3116


High-Performance Flat Square Screen

The Optiquest Q95 high-performance flat square screen monitor offers a larger viewing area and improved graphics for a surprisingly low price. This 19-inch (18-inch viewable) monitor, which uses the same amount of desk space as a 17-inch monitor, features minimal glare and a flicker-free refresh rate of 80Hz at 1,280 by 1,024 pixels for easy viewing.

The Q95 is ergonomically designed to avoid image distortion on edges and corners. Users are assured clear, crisp images because of the monitor’s super-fine 0.23mm horizontal dot pitch and maximum resolution of 1,600 by 1,200 pixels, according to Optiquest.

All screen adjustments are made via an on-screen menu using simple controls which allow the user to adjust color temperature and individual color intensity for screen-to-print matching. The monitor is also Energy 2000 certified for low power consumption and reduced emissions. It features Plug & Play technology and is compatible with both Macintosh and PC systems.

Backed by a three-year limited warranty, the Optiquest Q95 is priced at $419.
(800) 843-6784


Scantron’s ParSYSTEM 3.0

Scantron Corp., a leading provider of assessment tools and data collection systems, has just released ParSYSTEM 3.0, a complete testing management software system for educators.

“Now, our customers have the option of administering their tests electronically or in print, while pumping the results back into the same database,” explained Scantron president Larry Moore.

The software suite includes ParTEST, ParSCORE, and ParTEST Online, and allows users to import ParTEST files and launch them on a local area network. The new version offers the added ability to produce interactive testing and training instruments by supporting a long list of multimedia and graphic file formats.

All tests are password protected, and the system supports forward-only testing, practice testing, and the ability to bookmark unanswered questions. Users are also able to create and share item banks of questions and generate customized tests, and instructors can validate their questions by viewing the cumulative test scores for each test item. The programs can be purchased individually or as a suite for $1,445.
(800) 722-6876


Blackboard CourseInfo Enterprise Edition

CourseInfo Enterprise Edition, by Blackboard Inc., allows schools to intergrate their academic, administrative, community, and eCommerce functions into one neat package, according to the company.

Educators can enhance in-class instruction and/or deliver distance learning by bringing their course materials, class discussions, assignments, and quizzes to the web.

“This software brings courses online to reach students after the three o’clock bell rings,” said Mike Chasen, co-founder and president of Web Enterprises.

The software is designed so users can easily add and remove any information they’ve placed on the site. It offers tools so teachers can upload documents and build message boards and chat tools.

CourseInfo Enterprise Edition also features customization so institutions can create their own look. The scalable system architecture and modular technology of CourseInfo Enterprise Edition facilitates integration of all school functions and provides a content library that makes resources available for sharing with other departments and institutions.
(800) 424-9299


Compaq’s iPaq

Compaq Computer Corp. is staking its future on the iPaq, a simplified PC modeled after the successful iMac from Apple Computer. The company’s goals for the iPaq include a simplfied design, direct delivery to customers, and internet-centered features.

The iPaq comes in two versions, the USB port only version and the USB with “legacy” connectors. Legacy models will ship with a Windows 95 or 98 operating system, and the non-legacy model comes with Windows 2000.

In designing the iPaq, Compaq relied on standard, off-the-shelf components in order to help shorten development time and cut costs. According to Michael Takemura, product marketing manager for Compaq, the iPaq was developed in about 100 days, compared to the 18-month development cycle for most products.

The entry level product comes with a 500 MHz Celeron processor, 64 MB of RAM, and 4.3 GB hard drive, and it starts around $499. Customers will not find many different prices for the model, as the eight models being released will have inflexible pricing in an effort to deliver the iPaq directly, at an aggressive price, and to simplify the procurement process. “It’s like going in and buying a Saturn,” Takemura said. “It’s a single price. You don’t have to haggle over it.”
(800) 888-9909


Minolta’s PS 3000 Face-Up Publication Scanner

Due to growing print collections and overcrowded facilities, some school libraries have turned to scanning books and other print materials to make them digital resources. Unlike other book scanners on the market, however, the Minolta PS 3000 Face-Up Publication Scanner uses a face-up scanning method that protects a book’s spine during the scanning process.

Johns Hopkins University is using the Minolta PS 3000 scanner in a project called Comprehensive Access to Print Materials, which aims to automate its book retrieval system. When a book located in an off-site facility is requested, a robot will scan the book using the PS 3000 and the image of the page will appear on the student’s browser.

“Because we can’t rip these books apart to scan them, finding a unit that scanned the books face-up was very appealing,” said Sayeed Choudhury, the project’s director.

The PS series scanners automatically correct page curvature and line skewing, and they remove shadowing so that material near the binding can be read clearly, according to Minolta.

The scanner allows two facing pages to be scanned as one, and it has automatic edge detection that masks out borders and the area beyond the page for a clean output.

The Minolta PS 3000 also features intelligent autofocus and autoexposure functions that ensure crisp, clear images of originals without manual adjustments.
(800) 964-6658


Apple unveils Mac OS X and new internet strategy

At the Macworld Expo in San Francisco Jan. 5, Apple unveiled its new Mac OS X, the next generation Macintosh operating system, and also announced a new internet strategy. The company has introduced a new category of internet services called iTools and a completely redesigned web site featuring reviews of web sites in a section called iReview.

At the core of Apple’s internet strategy is iTools, a new category of internet services that takes advantage of Apple’s technology on both ends of the internet–Mac OS 9 on the client side and services software (iTools) running on Apple’s internet servers.

Apple’s first four iTools are KidSafe, a way to protect children on the internet;, an eMail service run by Apple, giving users an exclusive address on the internet; iDisk, a new way to store, transfer, and share files over the internet; and HomePage, an easy way to build your own web site in less than 10 minutes, according to Apple.

The company’s Mac OS X is a completely new implementation of the Macintosh operating system, featuring state-of-the-art technology throughout, including an entirely new user interface called “Aqua.” Mac OS X is designed to make computing even easier for consumers, while simultaneously extending the functionality for professional users, Apple said.

New features of Apple’s Aqua technology include the “Dock,” a new way to organize everything from applications and documents to web sites and streaming video, and a new Finder which simplifies the storing, organizing, and retrieving of files, while unifying these functions on the host computer and across local area networks and the internet.

In addition, Aqua offers a dramatic new visual appearance. Luminous and semi-transparent elements–such as buttons, scroll bars, and windows–and fluid animation are designed to enhance the user’s experience. Jelly-colored buttons pulsate as if alive, and menu borders are translucent, allowing you to see the documents beneath them.

More than 100 developers, including Adobe and Microsoft, have pledged their support for the new operating system, Apple said. Mac OS X will be commercially released this summer.