Napster wake-up call

I responded to your April 24 online poll on Napster and ended up choosing the “It’s a slight problem, but it’s not out of control” option, but this isn’t really our case.

We dealt with Napster early on, have now included its use as a violation of our acceptable use policy, and have not had any know instances of its use during school hours in the past three weeks.

The Macintosh version is called Macster and other variants of it are coming out, some which allow more than MP3s to be “shared”—including software programs. This could even be more of a problem, as these files are larger than the MP3 files.

Craig Nansen

Technology Coordinator

Minot Public Schools

Minot, N.D.

Struggling with tech integration

Regarding your story, “Study: Two-thirds of teachers use technology in their lessons, but only a third feel ‘well prepared'” (June 2000, page 70), I feel the research is very accurate. It follows closely what I have been experiencing with trying to integrate technology into the current curriculum. Only one out of 10 teachers who have 15 to 20 years in our district has embraced technology. When she did, it was full out, so to speak. She was so sold on technology that she bought a computer, scanner, color printer, etc., for her classroom. Her fourth-grade class has published a book on the history of our Alaskan community. She could not have done this without the technology available today to create and research the material.

The teachers who feel students don’t need the technology shy away from me coming into their classrooms to model technology use. When I get to the computer lab, they tend not to sit at a computer and try the lesson along with the kids. The newer teachers have used technology just to get through their college classes, so they’re more comfortable with it.

My district has made my mentoring services available this year for two periods a day to assist teachers during their class time with technology integration. The great part of this is that it is beginning to work, and the district is beginning to feel the technology skills rise in our staff. The sad part is that it was only a one-year grant, and I won’t be able to continue this project into next year.

Teachers also will not grow unless there is adequate equipment for their classrooms. We need to find funding to provide quality equipment, internet access, and training for teachers to reach the technology literacy level that is necessary for students today. I’m sure I am preaching to the choir on this, but I want you to know we are all on the same ship trying to get teachers trained in classroom technology use.

Cheryl Bobo

Professional Development Teacher

Delta/Greely School District (Alaska)

I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous! While 98 percent of all schools have computers, internet connections in the classroom are rare. What you are really reporting is that two-thirds of teachers are skill-drilling using software, not “using computers and the internet for instruction during class time.”

Incidentally, KMPG’s fall 1999 study had only 20 percent of public school teachers as regular users of new interactive technologies. My own study in Florida found that even in the most advanced districts, it was hard to find a student online. Two problems are causing this condition: (1) the teacher doesn’t want to take responsibility for the student interfacing with pornography if left alone to explore, and (2) the teacher can’t “fit” the expansive world of cyberspace to the basic skills curriculums and the standardized tests.

You need to retract or qualify this hyperbole before it is buzzed around the country as fact.

Jon W. Wiles

Professor of Education

University of North Florida

Jacksonville, Fla.

Editor’s reply:

“Using computers and the internet for instruction during class time” very well might mean using computers to do “drill and kill” instruction or taking the class down to the computer lab to write essays on the computer, since the phrase is open to the interpretation of the survey respondent. The very fact that only one-third of teachers feel well prepared to use computers and the internet seems to support what you’re saying—in other words, there’s a lot of computer use going on in schools, but the real, enriching use only happens in about a third of classrooms. We thought that would be the conclusion most people would reach by reading the story.

Web-based eMail

I read Trevor Shaw’s recent article titled, “Is web-based eMail a viable option for schools?” (April 2000, page 45) and wanted to bring to light an alternative that I’ve been using to provide eMail to students and staff—a web-based communication system that our school owns, but which is maintained by an outside provider.

We were finding it increasingly difficult to manage an in-house network for our K-8 district. It had become taxing and financially unwieldy. After looking into web-based eMail applications, one proved to be perfectly suited to the needs of this district. The system enables students, teachers, parents, and administrators to communicate within a school, between schools, and with a larger academic community. It gives each user an account with eMail, file storage, and bookmarks through the school’s individually customized home page. And it allows schools to post private directories, announcements, community sites, teacher web pages, and calendars. What’s more, I have control over all the components of the service.

Outside of the technical requirements, I also had a few more criteria for choosing the eMail service—first, it absolutely needed to be free of advertising. Second, it needed to be easy to use for students, parents, teachers, and administrators. I wanted to see our school community as one in which parents could eMail teachers conveniently, allowing parents to become more proactive in the school community. I wanted to enable principals to save administrative time through simple solutions like sending group eMails to entire academic departments. And I wanted to help teachers save time in class by enabling them to assign and receive homework from students over eMail.

Our communications system, which is supplied by eChalk, has been a wonderful and crucial addition to our schools and has shown me that there are ways to let schools move forward with technology with relative ease.

Raymond E. Mitchell

Director of Technology

West Fresno (Calif.) School District

Internet traffic in schools

I am a math major, a technology type, and a new subscriber. I disagree with the conclusions reached by eSchool News and N2H2 (“By the Numbers: Students spend most of their time on the internet searching,” April 2000), and I’m very concerned about placing it on page 6 along with the mention in your column. The number of hits received or uniform resource locator (URL) requests has no correlation with the amount of time spent on a web page. I often go to a search engine for a minute, click on a link, and then read a page for 10 or 20 minutes!

I agree with the need for studies that show how the internet is being used in school, but inaccurate interpretations of the data will drive incorrect responses.

Clifford Dittrich

Babbage Net School

Lake Grove, N.Y.

Editor’s reply:

N2H2 subsequently released a more detailed analysis of its snapshot survey, in which it calculated average and total time spent on the top 300 web sites used by schools. By average per-page viewing time, instructional and reference sites were the “stickiest,” while portals and search engines dropped to second lowest out of seven categories. However, when ranked by total viewing time, portals and search engines still topped the list. During a one-month span in winter 2000, portals and search engines received 56.8 percent of page views and 51.7 percent of total viewing time, while instructional and reference sites received 14.2 percent of page views and 20 percent of total viewing time. N2H2’s “K-12 Internet Use: Winter Quarter Learnings Report” is available for download at http://www.n2h2.com/edwhite/.