Portal plan could net millions of dollars for NYC schools

At presstime, the nation’s largest school district was expected to OK plans to create a money-making internet portal—complete with educational content and eCommerce capabilities—so it can raise funds to buy more technology for its schools.

“If we sit around and try to get government money, it’s not going to happen fast enough,” said Ninfa Segarra, chair of the New York City Board of Education’s technology committee.

The board wants to provide students with the top technological tools of the new economy—and it wants every student in the city to have equal access to them.

“Kids need to be exposed to technology,” Segarra said. “We have one million kids in New York City and that’s part of the problem.”

According to a feasibility study of the plan conducted by Andersen Consulting, “the creation of such a portal by the board is indeed doable and would generate cumulative revenue ranging from $120 million to $11.5 billion.”

The study also said the board’s portal would rank among the top 100 portals in terms of users—and it has the potential to become one of the top 10 portals in the world.

Since the city’s schools were lacking an equitable technology plan, the board formed the Teaching and Learning Cyberspace Task Force to come up with one. The task force developed a number of recommendations, one of which was for the board to collaborate with a company to create a revenue-generating portal complete with internet service.

Andersen Consulting, a member of the task force, agreed to do a feasibility study of the idea at no cost to the district.

Funding and content “Great ideas aren’t practical to do if you can’t afford to finance them,” Segarra said. “The idea is that the costs [of the portal] are absorbed by the instrument itself.”

Already, the board has sent out a request for proposals to see if anyone in the private sector would be interested in funding the creation of the portal at an estimated $900 million.

Interested parties must be willing to put down the money up front and profit from the site down the road, Segarra said. It’s a good financial opportunity for a company to develop a portal system that works and expand it to other school districts across the country, she said.

“We’re not talking about investing our dollars to up-front this,” Segarra said. “Andersen Consulting thinks there are companies out there that are willing to do this.”

The portal would offer academic content, communication services (such as eMail), and many eCommerce opportunities. It would have a search engine, mailing lists, a bulletin board, and other information services.

It would be a one-stop shop for accessing the board’s web pages, Segarra said. Educators would be able to buy educational materials through the site.

Different web pages would be tailored to various groups of people, such as students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Some areas would have restricted access, so users would need a log-in and password.

Overall, the portal would target students, teachers, parents, administrators, and community members.

“It provides us [with] a tool or place where all this educational content exists for everyone,” Segarra said. More important, it would involve parents. “What’s an easier way for them at 3 o’clock in the morning to be able to check their [child’s] homework?” she asked.

The Anderson Consulting study recommends that the board split the portal into two zones—an educational zone and a partner zone.

The education zone would focus on content and applications that facilitate learning. It would be a parent-controlled, commercial-free area for students and educators.

“In order for a child to enter that zone, they’ll have to have parental permission,” Segarra said. The company that partners with the board “will know up front the educational zone is purely advertisement-free.”

The partner zone would provide adults and family members with ad-sponsored internet access and services targeted to their needs.

The next step The Andersen Consulting study cautions that the decisions the board makes about how the portal is governed, what technology it installs and maintains, and what revenue streams it chooses would affect the portal’s viability and financial value significantly.

Once the board gives the go-ahead, “we have a lot of homework to do,” Segarra said.

The board’s technology committee will have to develop a business plan and secure support from a company. It also needs to figure out how the portal would work in accordance with the board’s policy and the state’s laws.

“We can’t do anything until the chancellor and the members of the board are comfortable with the principles of this proposal,” Segarra said. The portal would require advertising and, although advertising is not a new idea in New York City (the sides of school buses now display advertisements), it’s still controversial, Segarra said.

The site would have to make money, but district officials are responsible for protecting students’ confidentiality, Segarra said. They also must consider what types of companies they’re willing to collaborate with; for example, they already know they won’t be accepting support from cigarette makers.

In addition, they would have to determine how they’ll regulate the naming of the portal, especially if a corporation or individual contributes money. Also, the committee would have to decide if the school district should operate the portal or if it should contract the operation to an outside entity, like the district does with its custodial work.

“We’re in the business of educating youngsters,” Segarra said, and that’s what the board has to remember above all else. “Whatever risks may lie [ahead], the benefits outweigh the risks.” From the proceeds of the portal, every staff member would get eMail and internet access, which is a huge task, considering the city has 78,000 teachers. Every teacher and student in grades four and up would get a portable, wireless networked laptop. These would be free or significantly discounted.

“While we are doing this very extensive review, we are not stopping movement [forward],” Segarra said. The board is buying internet appliances now, since the Andersen Consulting report recommended them as a feasible and economical way of dispersing computers throughout all schools, especially for younger grades.

Will the board OK this proposal? So far, Segarra said, “no one has raised serious objections.”

New York City Board of Education http://www.nycenet.edu

Teaching and Learning in Cyberspace Taskforce http://www.nycenet.edu/cyberspace

Andersen Consulting http://www.ac.com

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Riley calls for more research, funding for school technology

As Congress continued to deliberate next year’s spending, Education Secretary Richard Riley repeated the Clinton administration’s call for an increase in federal funding to prepare teachers to use technology.

Although most teachers and students now have access to computers, Riley said, teachers still are not fully prepared to use them.

“We are asking Congress to double the funding—to $150 million—to help prepare [tomorrow’s] teachers to use technology,” he said. “Unfortunately, Congress hasn’t fully agreed to this increase. But it isn’t too late. In the next few weeks, they have another opportunity to fully fund this initiative.”

Riley’s comments came at the U.S. Department of Education’s annual Conference on Educational Technology, held Sept. 11 and 12 in Arlington, Va. During the conference, officials showcased promising practices and called for more research into what works and what doesn’t.

Riley, Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard, and keynote speaker Eric Benhamou, president and chief executive of 3Com Corp., released a study that shows how instrumental the eRate has been in helping connect most public schools—especially those in high-poverty areas—to the internet.

“eRate and the Digital Divide,” written by the Urban Institute, shows that the eRate has provided more than $3 billion for America’s public schools, three out of four public schools and districts applied for the program in its first two years, and per-pupil funding for high-poverty schools was more than twice the national average and nearly 10 times that of the wealthiest schools.

Despite the fact that the program targets the poorest schools, however, the most impoverished schools submitted the fewest applications. Larger districts and schools were more likely to apply than smaller ones, the study found.

Riley also announced the results of a second study, called “Teachers’ Tools for the 21st Century: A Report on Teachers’ Use of Technology,” which found that although most teachers have access to computers, only half use them for classroom instruction.

Based on information gathered from surveys conducted in 1999, this National Center for Education Statistics report found that teachers use computers mostly for word processing or creating spreadsheets, followed by internet research and practice drills.

Teachers were more likely to use a computer if it was located in their classroom, while students were most likely to use computers outside the classroom. Although 84 percent of teachers said they had at least one computer in their classroom, only 10 percent reported having more than five computers in their room.

According to the report, the two biggest barriers to using computers and the internet for instruction are lack of release time for teachers to learn how to integrate computers into the curriculum (82 percent) and lack of time in the schedule for students to use computers in class (80 percent).

Promising practices

Despite these challenges, pockets of innovation exist in schools around the country, Riley said. At the conference, students and educators from select schools demonstrated how they have learned to use technology to enhance classroom instruction.

Students from a Virginia-based organization called Kidz Online broadcast the entire two-day conference over the internet while nearly 600 participants listened and dined.

High school students from South Burlington, Vt., showed off digital graphics and animation they created in a course designed by English teacher Tim Comolli. In the course, students learn to use industry-standard graphic software like Adobe Photoshop.

Conference attendees gave two students from Mott Hall School in New York City a standing ovation after their speech about how technology has transformed the learning experience since every student and teacher at the school received a laptop computer.

“I became the [technology] expert in the family,” said 13-year-old Anthony Reyes in an interview. “My mom uses it. My whole family uses it. It’s cool.”

Besides helping him to be more organized and creative, Reyes said, his laptop brings information and resources right to his fingertips.

Mott Hall School commissioned a study of its laptop program by Metis Associates Inc. to see how it affects student achievement.

“Our research has proven significant improvement in writing, critical thinking, and research skills,” said Principal Mirian Acost-Sing.

At the conference, Microsoft Corp. also released a study of its Anytime Anywhere Learning program, in which all students in a school own laptops that use Microsoft software. After three years of the program, research done by Rockman et al suggests that students become better writers, collaborate more on group projects, and are more involved in their schoolwork.

The study also suggests that teachers who use laptops show greater confidence in using technology tools. But critics of the study point out that it was commissioned and funded by Microsoft and that it lacks hard figures to quantify its results.

Better evaluation needed

Though conference speakers and attendees shared anecdotal evidence of technology’s impact on learning, officials called for more extensive research on the topic. The need for more studies was underscored by a Sept. 12 press conference in nearby Washington, D.C., in which participants called for a moratorium on technology spending in younger grades until there is further proof of technology’s impact (see story, page 1).

Several speakers discussed tools they are developing to help measure the success of their technology programs.

Elliot Soloway, a professor of education at the University of Michigan, described a tool he and some colleagues are developing, called the Online Snapshot Survey, which allows schools to gather input from teachers and administrators by conducting an online survey so officials can make more informed decisions about technology.

“If you do a survey, you can get a sense of distribution in your district and where you should buy,” Soloway said. He said that once the web site is running, educators could choose from approximately 80 existing surveys or could make up their own.

Jim Nazworthy, of the High Plains Regional Technology in Education Consortium, discussed Profiler, a tool that surveys teachers to assess their professional development needs. It’s essentially a knowledge audit, he said. By taking the survey, teachers can assess their technology abilities, and Profiler helps them find someone at their school who can help them learn the skills they don’t know.

The Secretary’s Conference on Education Technology

http://www.ed.gov/Technology/techconf/2000

The eRate and the Digital Divide

http://www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/eval/erate_fr.pdf

Teachers’ Tools for the 21st Century: A Report on Teachers’ Use of Technology

http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2000102

The Online Snapshot Survey

http://snapshotsurvey.org

Profiler

http://profiler.scrtec.org

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Glenn Commission: Math, science ed crisis threatens U.S.

The key to fixing America’s math and science education–described as a crisis that is “dangerous to national prosperity and security”–is improved teacher quality, according to a nonpartisan commission convened to investigate the quality of math and science teaching in United States schools.

U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley directed the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century to consider ways of improving recruitment, preparation, retention, and professional growth for math and science teachers in K-12 classrooms nationwide.

The commission’s report, titled “Before It’s Too Late,” summarizes its findings and recommendations.

“If you detect a note of urgency in that title, then our basic message to you and to the American people is already clear,” said former Sen. John Glenn, the commission’s chair.

Test scores across the country are increasing, but when American students are compared to those in 41 other nations, their performance lags, Glenn said, citing the Third International Mathematics and Science study.

“Our American fourth-grade children were among … the top two or three countries in the world,” he said. But “by the time American students had graduated from high school, they were almost last. They are about two or three from the bottom in that list of nations.”

Yet, we’re competing economically and technologically with the people from those nations. “Globalization has occurred,” Glenn said. “It’s no longer a futuristic theory; it’s here.”

He also said the military security of the United States depends on math and science education. So do medical advances, new pharmaceuticals, automobiles, airplanes, new engines, safety, environmental concerns, and more. In fact, the federal government recently passed special immigration legislation to let foreigners fill technology jobs because the U.S. doesn’t have enough qualified people.

The report states that 60 percent of all new jobs in the 21st century will require skills possessed by only 20 percent of the current work force.

“These figures compel me to upgrade our previous word of ‘unacceptable’ perhaps to a stronger word of ‘dangerous’–and I think we must address the problem forcefully and persistently,” Glenn said.

After spending more than a year studying and listening to experts, the report recommends that America launch an all-out effort to recruit and retain talented math and science teachers to correct these problems.

Although many teachers are doing a good job of teaching and motivating students, the report said, many are not. Too many teachers are underqualified or have insufficient content knowledge. Too many are leaving the profession altogether.

One-fourth of our math and science teachers never received a degree in the subjects they are teaching, and 30 percent of new teachers leave within three years, according to the report.

To combat these problems, the commission’s report offers a three-goal strategy.

First, improve the quality of math and science education now by radically and systematically improving the professional development of new and veteran teachers.

To do this, the report suggests creating math and science teaching academies within existing schools and colleges. These teaching academies would produce a new crop of well-versed teachers not currently in the math and science fields, Glenn said.

In addition to teaching academies, offering summer institutes will help new and veteran teachers hone their skills and improve their knowledge in a concentrated session.

Second, increase the number of teachers put into math and science classrooms by hiring qualified mid-career professionals with an interest in teaching those subjects.

Third, improve the working environment for teachers, and make the teaching profession much more attractive for all K-12 math and science teachers. The report, which describes teachers’ wages as “scandalous,” recommends giving incentives and higher pay.

Eleven percent of teachers leave the profession each year, the report said. By developing a reward-and-recognition program, fewer teachers might drop out.

The report also suggests creating a loan-forgiveness program to entice people to become teachers. The number of new loans offered each year could be adjusted to fit the demand for math and science teachers, the report said.

“Unless we begin our pursuit of these goals today, this nation may arrive on tomorrow’s doorstep a day late and a dollar short,” Glenn said.

Nation Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century

http://www.ed.gov/inits/Math/glenn

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Education foundation honors ‘digital dozen’

A new Hawaii-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping close the “digital gap” in our nation’s schools has selected 12 school districts as recipients of its first Technology in Education Leadership Awards for their exemplary use of technology in K-12 education.

To identify the nation’s most technologically advanced school districts, the Ohana Foundation drew upon research conducted at Center for Information and Communication Sciences at Indiana’s Ball State University over a five-year period. Representatives from state departments of education and K-12 districts were asked to name the school districts they regard as leaders in the application of technology in their state.

According to Alan Pollock, director of marketing for the Ohana Foundation, a panel of judges narrowed the field to 12 finalists. Each received an all-expenses-paid trip to the National School Boards Association’s annual Technology + Learning conference held Oct. 25-28 in Denver.

Criteria for selection were as follows:

• The district made efforts to do more than just install computers. A broader sense of educational technology was necessary, including the integrated use of various video, audio, digital, satellite, and distance learning technologies in a networked environment.

• The district demonstrated special leadership efforts in trying new technologies or unusual experiences for teachers or students.

• The district made efforts to assure that classroom and curriculum integration took place, not just technology for its own sake.

• The district made efforts to provide training for teachers as well as exposure for students.

“Our goal was to recognize a group that is often not recognized. School technology can often be a thankless job,” Pollock said. He added that the Ohana Foundation plans to continue its awards program in future years.

This year’s 12 Technology in Education Leadership Awards finalists are:

Opelika City Schools (Alabama)

Opelika City Schools have implemented an intense technological plan that began in 1990 and has placed 3,000 computers in nine schools with a total district enrollment of 4,500 students. Each school has its own local area network (LAN) connected to a wide area network (WAN), and each school also features a video network system.

There are five computers in each elementary classroom and a computer in every middle and high school class, with 13 labs for student use. The district also circulates 35 laptops among students and teachers. Because computers are so pervasive, many in the district prefer to use eMail communication.

“The effects [of technology in the classroom] are immeasurable,” explained one district official. “It gives unnoticed kids a chance to shine and is a tremendous outreach tool.”

Anchorage School District (Alaska)

Among other improvements, teachers in the district are receiving technology education thanks to a donation by British Petroleum of 250 computers and $20,000 to pay teachers for training. To assist with the training, the district shows a series of teacher-produced programs discussing technology over its cable television network.

Anchorage schools also have created school technology assistance teams (STATs) to work with teachers and help them meet their technology goals. The district has a 5-to-1 ratio of students to computers, and all classrooms have internet access and are connected directly to the library’s card catalog. All 2,500 computers are part of a LAN.

http://www.asd.k12.ak.us

Malvern Special School District (Arkansas)

Malvern has a distance learning program established with local universities and technical schools, as well as three other high schools. The PRISM (People, Resources, and Imagination Studio at Malvern) is a multimedia lab studio with eight full-time teachers. Students in this program are required to support all projects through an electronic medium, and the studio is equipped with video editing capabilities.

The district’s PRISM-EAST (Earth and Space Technology) project allows students to examine the universe and put research projects into electronic format.

http://malvern.dsc.k12.ar.us

Little Falls Community Schools (Minnesota)

Through a bond from the state of Minnesota, the Little Falls School District has hired “integration people” to help with technology development and implementation. The integration people are individuals dedicated to implementing technology, training both teachers and students, and maintaining the district network.

Little Falls boasts 1,500 computers in five buildings, with a LAN in each building and a district-wide network. A network file server in the central building contains software applications, encyclopedias, and magazine databases.

The district also features a brand-new digital phone system, a two-way interactive video system, and every classroom is wired for internet access.

http://www.lfalls.k12.mn.us

Nixa R-II Schools (Missouri)

All of Nixa’s schools are networked on a fiber optic cable run through a core switch, and each building has a file server so staff can communicate with one another at all times via eMail. Nixa schools have several A+ learning labs funded through their A+ Schools program, as well as computers in most classrooms and mini-labs in the three elementary schools.

Nixa also participates in the eMints teacher training program through which teachers receive additional professional development and training by participating in a technology-immersion classroom, where the same teachers follow one class from third to fourth grade.

http://www.nixa.k12.mo.us

Anaconda School District (Montana)

With only one high school, one middle school, and one elementary, this small district has made great strides with technology.

The high school and middle school are fiber-connected with videoconferencing ability. Each and every teacher has a networked computer for grading and administration. The elementary school has a wireless connection with the high school, allowing them to mentor and work together.

The elementary and middle schools both have six to seven computers per class, and the high school features AutoCAD, Hyperstudio, electronic government research tools, and history, atlas, and encyclopedia programs.

http://hosts2.intch.com/www.anacondamt.org/educate .htm

Red Hook Central School District (New York)

The Red Hook Technology Project, commonly referred to as Tech 2000, is a public and private partnership providing voice, video, data, and distance learning opportunities to all district classrooms.

Two PBX telephone switches provide voice mail and call accounting. Every classroom in the district is equipped with a large video monitor connected to a control room, making use of videotapes, cable TV, satellite, CD-ROM, and DVD.

The district is networked over a WAN that uses a T1 connection, and educators have access to “virtual computer classrooms” comprised of laptops that are moved around on carts for student use.

http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/repcrd399/D_131701.html

Wilson County Schools (North Carolina)

In Wilson County, technology is viewed as a way to engage all the district’s children. All classes have at least two computers and a printer, and each campus boasts a school-wide LAN and a high-tech lab.

But the real innovations in Wilson County are the seven teacher-created volumes of integrated lesson plans, complete with assistance and stipends from the technology department. These technology-based lesson plans are based around the standard course of study and allow teachers to become acquainted with technology as they teach. Training is a major focus point for the district.

http://schools.eastnet.ecu.edu/wilson

Central Columbia School District (Pennsylvania)

In addition to a thoroughly modern and integrated classroom experience, Central Columbia schools encourage participation with technology. As part of the school experience for students, daily announcements featuring school information are produced in both the elementary and middle schools. Classroom teachers are trained in television production, and they provide instructional support to help students wire, direct, and provide talent for these broadcasts.

The district introduces students to computers in first grade and teaches keyboarding in fifth. Ninth-graders are required to complete coursework in computer technology, and eleventh-graders must use technology to complete a project of their choice in one area of study.

http://www.centralcolumbia.k12.pa.us

Beaufort County School District (South Carolina)

Beaufort County became a pioneer in the “Anytime, Anywhere Learning” project in 1996 by making laptops available to all interested middle school students, regardless of economic status. The district’s Schoolbook Foundation helps subsidize families who want their kids to have laptops, and as a result, more than half of the county’s disadvantaged students have been provided with laptops for instructional use.

With the installation of a $10 million technology initiative, the district has wired every school and allowed every classroom in each school to share resources. An independent study indicated measurable improvements in students’ perception and grades since the program’s inception.

http://www.beaufort.k12.sc.us

Henry County Public Schools (Virginia)

Henry County won the Laureate Smithsonian Award in 1999 for its “universal laptop access” program. Apple Computer nominated the district for this award.

The schools in Henry County are totally networked via a frame relay backbone to a central office, and proxy servers are in place at all four high schools. The district also offers two learning packages at the high schools, and a laptop initiative is in place to provide portable computers for grades four, five, eight, and nine.

http://henry1.henry.k12.va.us/public

Shoreline Public Schools (Washington)

Shoreline Public Schools, located outside Seattle, has exemplary multimedia and computer programs committed to providing equal access to technology to all students. These programs have developed students’ problem-solving skills with the help of cutting-edge technology. Over the last 10 years, the district has spent more than $20 million on technology for learning.

Shoreline operates a voice, data, and video network to its classrooms and makes teaching technology a priority. Shoreline takes a proactive attitude toward showing students the positive aspect of computers and multimedia technology.

http://www.shoreline.wednet.edu

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Michigan to buy 91,000 computers for educators

In what might be the largest initiative of its kind, Michigan is buying 91,000 computers for its public school educators, and officials say deliveries will begin by year’s end.

State officials are seeking bids to purchase 83,000 laptop and 8,000 desktop computers with internet access. It’s part of the $110-million, one-time initiative approved by the Legislature last summer for Gov. John Engler’s Teacher Technology Initiative.

“We know technology is going to drive educational quality and improvement,” said Engler spokesman John Truscott. “This should translate directly to quality in the classroom, and it’ll give teachers a chance to share with their colleagues ideas that work through eMail and chat rooms.”

Contracts were expected to be given in October to between three and five vendors to provide the equipment, software, and support services. Districts are expected to begin ordering computers in November.

Jamey Fitzpatrick, vice president of Michigan Virtual University, which is helping to coordinate the program, called it a leading-edge initiative. “No other state has ever approached anything like this,” he told the Detroit News for a story published Sept. 25.

Teachers will be able to use the laptops to communicate with parents, develop curriculum, foster professional development online, and work at home, Engler said when he proposed the idea in January.

“The teachers will be able to take the computer home, use it in the summer months and on weekends,” Fitzpatrick said. “The idea is if teachers begin to feel comfortable using technology for something of personal interest to them, it won’t be long before they use the same tool in the classroom.”

While the computers will end up in the hands of individual teachers, they ultimately will belong to local school districts. If a teacher stops teaching at a specific district, the computer stays with that district.

Training also is part of the package, officials say. Teachers who don’t have basic training will receive it, and those already proficient will receive advanced training. Teachers must demonstrate a minimum level of computer competency to be eligible for a state-funded computer. That means they must know how to get onto the internet and how to send eMail.

The state will offer free online courses to bolster training and will assess progress after one year. Teachers in a school building may vote to split program funding between technological equipment and more advanced computer training.

School districts must report their numbers of eligible full-time teachers who can take part in the program. Once they report this information, they will get an increase in state aid equal to the cost of the program—$1,200 per eligible teacher—to buy or lease the machines. A panel of educators drew up the computer specifications; school districts likely will have a few options.

Teachers will have the computers for business and personal use. However, guidelines will be imposed, Fitzpatrick said. He said the state is drafting a policy that would allow teachers to do their taxes on the computers, for example, but not use them to sell pornography.

Detroit Public Schools second-grade teacher Judy Eggly said she’s excited about getting a free laptop computer from the state.

“A lot of us don’t have access to computers at home, whether our classrooms are equipped or not,” she told the Detroit News. “I know a lot of things $110 million could be used for, but this will be a real plus to teachers who want to do lesson plans and research at home. It’s absolutely fantastic.”

Michigan Gov. John Engler

http://www.migov.state.mi.us/MichiganGovernor.htm

Michigan Virtual University

http://www.mivu.org

Detroit Public Schools

http://www.detroit.k12.mi.us

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Application service providers: Other members of the thin-client family

If you can put your computing power on a distant server, why not do the same with your software?

That’s the idea behind application service providers, kissing cousins to thin clients. Instead of purchasing software, schools can “rent” software from another company, which delivers the applications via the internet.

Don Carte, of the Learningstation.com, a major ASP vendor in the educational software market, says ASPs offer some of the same advantages as thin clients, since all software applications are controlled centrally and can be updated simultaneously without a lot of technical manpower.

But ASPs offer an additional advantage over a traditional thin-client approach, he adds—the company’s servers, not the school’s do the processing, and the company is responsible for maintaining them.

“This is much less expensive than the traditional total cost of ownership,” says Carte. He estimates that ASP services cost 40 percent to 60 percent of standard software purchases and ownership over local area networks, because they eliminate the ongoing costs of upgrades. With ASPs, schools always have the latest version of software available to students, Carte says.

“We think the education market is going to lead in terms of implementing ASPs,” he says. “Everyone will be renting or [using] ASPs in three to five years.”

In this realm, Carte thinks, schools will be ahead of businesses, which just invested heavily in year 2000 upgrades.

ASPs are more secure, Carte claims, because “it’s a heck of a lot easier to hack into a school system than into our server.” Because applications are based on the internet, teachers and students are able to access their assignments and classroom applications at any time, from home or from school.

The Learningstation.com’s i-LAN solution moves traditional LAN functions to the company’s centrally managed, internet-accessed server farm. The only requirement for the service on the school end is the ability to launch a web browser.

Since the browser launches applications and support functions, even thin-client devices with little or no hard-drive capabilities can be used to run the latest versions of software releases and stay connected to all other devices on the network. In essence, the web browser replaces the device’s operating system in terms of launching applications.

California-based PowerSchool Inc., which hosts and operates a web-based student information system, is also part of the ASP realm. PowerSchool chief executive Greg Porter developed the idea for his company while he was president of his high school class. Administrators at his school were having problems tracking attendance. So, he and a friend worked on the problem in computer class.

After a few stops in his career, Porter came back to his high-school project and started marketing a web-based student information system to schools. Any system that can access the web can run the software, which helps give parents and educators more information about their children’s schoolwork, identifying learning problems earlier when they are easier to correct.

PowerSchool also sells learning management software that allows schools to correlate curriculum to state and national standards.

The company recently announced its ASP pricing model with a remote hosting option. Instead of incurring an up-front charge for software, hardware, and installations, schools can opt to pay a subscription fee for each student per year. Pricing, which starts at $6 per student per year, is based on the total number of students and other factors.

—D.L.

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Security issues with thin clients

Michael Schmidt has been working as a programmer and project manager in the field of workstation and network security for several years. He’s working on his Ph.D. thesis on thin-client security at the University of Siegen in Germany. Because of its concept of server-oriented computing, thin-client architecture offers improvements and drawbacks when it come to security, Schmidt says.

In general, thin clients offer the following security advantages:

• A client device that is good only for interfacing with users typically does not offer as much exposure to an attacker as a programmable device, such as a personal computer, since all interfaces that allow the introduction of malicious code—like floppy drives—are removed.

• Since all applications run centrally on the server side, a consistent, security-oriented administration is easier to manage.

• Common thin-client architectures (such as Windows Terminal Server) are shipped with a basic security functionality that includes sufficient authentication and encryption for environments with standard security requirements.

However, Schmidt says, there are some disadvantages as well:

• Since all applications run on the server side, a successful break-in discloses much more, possibly confidential, data than a PC attack.

• The server operator carries a higher responsibility and must be entrusted with more than a PC server operator, since all potentially confidential data are available to him or her on the server.

From the client side, there are these potential problems:

• With many products, the thin client cannot figure out whether the server it connects to is authentic or malicious (faked). Anyone who is able to impersonate the server’s identity has access to data the authentic server would process instead.

• A thin client cannot keep its data confidential from the server or its operator, since the data have to be processed in clear text on the server. This is a problem with application service providers as well, if the customer does not have unequivocal trust in its ASP. Even if the thin-client system encrypts data transmission to and from the server, the encryption key is still under control of the ASP.

• “Small” thin-client devices (such as Palm Pilots) usually have a very low system protection. Their security relies on the fact that they’re always kept under physical control of their owners. Palm Pilots that are “borrowed” by an attacker for manipulation or intensively used for internet access can be corrupted easily by viruses, Trojan horses, etc.

In schools, Schmidt sees the following advantages and problems:

• Hacking into the network is made very difficult for students if the thin-client device has no disk drive or any other interface that would allow the infiltration of malicious code. In this respect, thin clients are clearly more secure than regular PCs.

• In case a hacker does manage to gain access to the server, he or she may access confidential data and/or create more damage.

• Students have no real opportunity to store their data in a location kept confidential from the school administration.

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eSN Career Center

COMPUTER SCIENCE

Science Teacher, FL

Certified science teacher for grades 5 through 8 in small Catholic school. Job includes teaching science to four different levels, organizing science fairs throughout the year. Good place for motivated individual. Great working environment.

Please send resume to: Julie Harris, Teacher, Divine Mercy, 1940 N. Courtenay Pkwy , Merritt Island, FL, 32953 or harrisj@dmccs.org

Programmer, AK

Develops programs, revises existing programs and implements vendor software packages. Tests, debugs and documents programs. Maintains computer codes for applications supported by the data center. Prior programming experience is desired or at least two years of formal education in Computer Science which includes programming course work. Experience with UNIX Operating Systems and Informix database desirable. Demonstrated proficiency with C, C++ is preferred. Must possess high level technical, logic and analytical skills. Send resume to Bill McCormack, Director of Information Technology, Anchorage School District, 1602 Hillcrest Drive, Anchorage, AK 99517 fax (907) 742-4644 or eMail: mccormack_bill@xmail.asd.k12.ak.us

Instructional

Technology

Flight Director,VA

Lead groups (primarily 5-8 grade) through exciting, interactive, multimedia activities by simulating space missions. Requirements include: 110% enthusiasm aching students and adults, demonstrated presentation skills, 4-year degree, familiarity with a variety of technical teaching aids (computer proficiency required). Certification in classroom education is highly desirable. Occasional overtime and weekend hours.

Contact: Sarah B. Jastrzab,Human Resource Administrator,The Challenger Center,1250 N. Pitt Street ,Alexandria,VA ,22314

or eMail: sjastrzab@challenger.org

Freelance Contributor,IL

Help make Britannica.com the leading knowledge and learning destination for the consumer and educational markets. Work from home to build an exciting, dynamic, global resource. Help us create one of the Internet’s top knowledge sites. To succeed, we need outstanding freelance website reviewers. We’re especially looking for top-shelf writers with backgrounds in Education. Candidates must have a minimum of 2 years teaching experience, solid knowledge of current trends in education, good writing skills, and a strong familiarity with the Internet.,

Please contact; Isabel Fiore,Freelance Contributor, Britannica.com, Britannica.com, 310 S. Michigan Ave.,7th Floor, Chicago,IL,60604

or eMail: ,ifiore@us.britannica.com

Instructional Strategies Specialist,NJ

IDE’s Instructional Strategies Specialists consult in client districts in order to bring about substantive change in the teaching and learning process. Using technology infusion as a catalyst for change, they aid teachers and administrators in shifting the traditional paradigm of teaching in order to create enriched learning experiences for students. At least five years teaching experience and a masters or doctoral degree is required for the current opening. As the position is that of a change agent, excellent interpersonal skills are a must. Contact: Katie Kashmanian,Director of K-12 Operations,IDE Corp. – Innovative Designs for Education, 120 North Central Avenue, Suite 4 Ramsey, NJ, 07446,

or eMail: ktkash@idecorp.com

Instructional Technology Coordinator, CO

Curriculum Implementation Facilitator and Instructional Technology Coordinator Mosaica Education seeks highly qualified and experienced educators for Curriculum Implementation Facilitator (CIF) in Wilmington, Delaware, Harrisburg, PA and Denver, Colorado and Instructional Technology Coordinator (ITC) in Jersey City, New Jersey, Wilmington, Delaware, Harrisburg, PA, and Denver, Colorado,. Qualifications: ITC position requires significant independent analysis and problem solving skills, as well as an in-depth working knowledge of diverse teaching strategies, technologies, and media. B.S. in Math, Science or Instructional Technology. Qualifications: CIF position requires Degree in Social Sciences, Arts or Humanities. Minimum of five years classroom experience (elementary preferred). Media Resource Specialist. Demonstrated mastery in a leadership position. Please submit letter of intent and resume via fax to 415-491-1309 or apply by e-mail at jobs@mosaicaeducation.com.

Instructional Technology Manager, MI

National Heritage Academies, a K-8 charter school management company currently managing 22 schools, is seeking an individual to support the technological needs of the teacher community. The successful candidate will manage multiple facets of the educational technology program. Persons must be self-motivated, organized, possess strong communication skills and must work well in a team-oriented environment. 2 -5 years of prior teaching experience or degree in educational technology or related field preferred. This is a year-round position with opportunity for growth. Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience. This position is based in Grand Rapids, but some travel will be required. jobs@heritageacademies.com www.heritageacademies.com

CURRICULUM

DEVELOPMENT

Curriculum Consultant, MN

We are looking for a Curriculum Consultant to work in our Shoreview office. This position is in the education industry with an initial focus at the elementary school level.

The job will involve working with K-6 grade teachers, curriculum and technology coordinators, administrators, and other school staff to integrate technology into their curriculum. As a consultant, you will be responsible for understanding the needs of the school, making recommendations and advising methods for integration. Responsibilities will include:

* Researching methods, tools, and strategies for integrating technology into the curriculum across multiple disciplines.

* Analyzing and evaluating a school’s curriculum in terms of technology.

* Presenting workshops and sessions on using technology to enhance curriculum.

* Making recommendations to school and district level curriculum councils.

* Monitoring national and state curriculum standards.

The consultant will also work alongside Vivid Education’s web developers to enhance the curriculum integration section of our interface designed to help schools with every aspect of technology integration.

Required Skills:

* Experience in the education market with an understanding of school systems and functions.

* Familiarity and high comfort level with technology.

* Understanding of national and state curriculum standards.

* Ability to dynamically facilitate and present to groups.

* Curriculum building experience.

Candidates must be willing to work in a fast-

paced startup environment. They must have strong communication skills and the ability to work in teams. Interested individuals, please email: jobs@vivED.com

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NETWORK SPECIALIST, OR

Ability to maintain, manage, and continue to develop the district Network Intranet System; experience with Novell and NT servers (MS Proxy Server, Novonyx Email Server, Access and SQL Server, and Web Server), and web filtering and web design; ability to provide desktop support and trouble shooting; capability of training students and staff with a positive team attitude; ability to adjust to a flexible schedule.

Contact: Priscilla Schmidt, Personnel Assistant, Silver Falls School District, 210 East C St., Silverton, OR, 97381 or eMail:

schmidt_priscilla@silverfalls.k12.or.us

Professional Developer K-12, NY

An Education Technology Company in Rockland county, seeks a full/time, self-motivated experienced educator with strong technical and organizational skills to develop, deliver, and assist in coordination of K-12 teacher workshops. Some Tri-state travel. Send resume to:

Judy Brendel, Director of Staff Development, The Learning Edge, 111 Route 303, Tappan, NY 10983 or fax: 914-365-3703

Network Administrator – Tech Spt Sp 3, WA

Salary: $16.72 – $19.38/hr BASIC FUNCTIONS: Responsible for maintaining the infrastructure of the North Thurston School District Wide Area and Local Area Networks. Incumbent is responsible for daily operation of routers, premises wiring, fiber connections, TCP/IP configurations and T1 provisioning. PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES: Must have or be currently pursuing Cisco Certification. Training/experience in networked

it MANAGEMENT / mis

systems and server-based or client/server applications. Ability to work independently. Ability to develop positive working relationships with staff and management.

eMail: jdrennon@ntsd.wednet.edu

Senior Network Analyst,WA

Assist Network & Telecommunications Services Director in development & implementation of a suite of network services for local school districts within ESD 113’s service region. Wide Area Network management support, Institutional Technical Unit support. Provide services to districts using NT server, Novell Netware, AppleShare, Unix/Linux, Windows 95/98 and Macintosh Operating Systems. $47,835 – $52,778 plus benefits. Contact: Judy Gregorius, Senior Network Analyst, Educational Service District 113, 601 McPhee Rd SW, Olympia, WA, 98502, or eMail: jgregor1@esd113.wednet.edu

LIBRARIANS / MEDIA SPECIALISTS

Information Services Consultant, NC

Information Services Consultant Scope Person will assist and guide the Academy’s staff and students in using the technologies within the school’s environment to the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness. Uses established practices and procedures to accomplish tasks requiring expertise in specific areas. Acts as a resource for the school’s other consultants and educational constituents. Qualifications: -Thorough technical knowledge of Windows NT and networking systems; knowledge of Windows 95 and Macintosh OS a plus. Strong interpersonal, organizational, communication, and planning skills. -Knowledge of multimedia technology, multimedia authoring tools, and use of the Internet and Intranet to deliver information. -A record of successful experience in more than one of the following areas: academic technology, technology training, information systems, programming, consulting, problem solving, networking, and World Wide Web. -Related experience in an academic institution a plus. -Bachelor’s degree or higher in a technical area with emphasis on information systems, computer science, education, or instructional technology. -Four years of experience in information systems consulting, training or programming, including experience dealing directly with the user community. -Directly related experience or a combination of directly related education and experience may be considered in place of the above requirements. Position in Organization: The Information Services Consultant will function as part of the instructional support staff and will report to the Director of Information Services. How to Apply Interested candidates should submit a cover letter, resume, and the names of three references to: Information Services Consultant Cary Academy 1500 N. Harrison Avenue Cary, NC 27513 Fax: 919-677-4002 Cary Academy is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. EOE

Librarian/media specialist, FL

Oversee library/media center for small Catholic school, enrollment 300. School is located in Merritt Island, FL. about 45 miles east of Orlando.

Contact: Sister Anne O’Sullivan,principal,Divine Mercy School,1940 N. Courtenay Pkwy,,Merritt Island,FL , or eMail: annes@dmccs.org

Library Support Assistant, IL

The Library Support Assistant (LSA) is responsible for performing computer-related troubleshooting, catalog data management services, and other software-related management to both the Schools’ libraries and their approximately 40 Macintosh computers. The LSA coordinates activities with the Information Systems group assists the library faculty and staff in establishing and maintaining effective computing operations. This is a 12-month position. Education: Bachelor’s Degree required; computing coursework required, library coursework preferred.

Experience: Minimum one year troubleshooting/maintaining computers, academic setting/Mac platform preferred. Contact Dave Stafford, Associate Director, The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, 1362 East 59th Street, Chicago IL 60637or dave@vertex.ucls.uchicago.edu

computer TECHNICIANS

Info. Technology Support Specialist, AL

Franklin Road Academy’s Technology Department seeks an Information Technology Support Specialist to Assist Director of Technology in all areas of technology for a 900 plus student K-12 campus located in Nashville, TN. Provide daily first line support for 450 computers, 12 servers running Mac, Windows, Linux & Novell operating systems. The ideal candidate will have familiarity with or demonstrate the ability to master the following areas. 1) Respond to and track all daily technical support calls 2) Check equipment and software problems 3) Reconnect lost network printer connections 4) Reconfigure lost network settings (IP addresses / Bindings) 5) Replace dead clock batteries 6) Reload bios settings 7) Move equipment being replaced (monitors, printers, CPUs) 8) Troubleshoot cabling problems 9) Upgrade, install, and track (for licensing) software 10) Help users find lost data 11) Transport broken equipment for local repair 12) Receive and distribute new equipment 13) Organize and perform equipment setup and configuration 14) Troubleshoot multimedia connectivity problems (projectors) 15) Track product pricing and availability 16) Schedule and perform regular maintenance for all network equipment 17) Maintain technology software and equipment inventory For consideration, please contact: Mike McCabe Director of Technology Franklin Road Academy 4700 Franklin Road Nashville, TN 37220 Phone: (615) 331-6808 x357 FRA Home Page: http://www.frapanthers.com e-mail: mccabem@frapanthers.com

Hardware & Network Technician, CA

Private elementary school seeks hardware & network technician. Applicant must have understanding of MAC networks running OS 7.1 through 9.0, Appleshare IP 6.3 and Retrospect Backup system. Routine system maintenance and troubleshooting for 70 systems. Knowledge of DSL, focus boxes, hubs, switches, apple talk, USB, and ethernet is important. Position is 15-20 hours per week. Experience is a necessity. Please fax resume to 510-656-3608.

Technology Support Technician, MO

Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School (MICDS) seeks candidates for the position of Technology Support Technician. MICDS is one of the nation’s leading college preparatory schools, located in the St. Louis area since 1859. We have 1,200 students ranging from grades JK through 12 and about 240 faculty and staff. The person in this position with work with the rest of the Technology Services Department to support

and enhance the technology on campus. The successful candidate will help both students and faculty to use technology effectively. The candidate should be experienced with troubleshooting hardware/software issues on both Windows and Macintosh platforms. He/she will also have demonstrated communication and organizational skills. Experience in help desk management is a plus. Salary is commensurate with experience and qualifications.

Qualified candidates should send a resume and include names, phone numbers and addresses of three references as well as a statement describing their interest in the position and position you are applying for to: Matt Skipton Director of Technology Services, MI MICDS, 101 North Warson Road Saint Louis, MO 63124

mskipton@micds.org No phone calls, please. MICDS is an equal opportunity employer.

TECHNOLOGY COORDINATORS

Director of Technology, GA

The Bryan County School System is located in Coastal Georgia near Savannah. The school district is comprised of Pembroke and Richmond Hill and serves apx. 5200 students at 8 schools. The Director of Technology is responsible for coordinating the administrative and instructional technology for the school system. Applicants will be screened for the following training and/or experience: Bachelor’s degree in technology, computer information systems, or related field. Three years of experience in the field of technology which included a leadership role in project development and/or implementation. Demonstrated personal characteristics and professional competencies to work successfully with students, teachers, administrators and the public, including communication skills, human relation skills and time management skills., Please contact: Dr. Gary L. Russell, Superintendent, Bryan County Board of Education, 66 South Industrial Blvd., Pembroke,GA ,31324 or Fax: 912-653-4386,

NETWORK SPECIALIST, OR

Ability to maintain, manage, and continue to develop the district Network Intranet System; experience with Novell and NT servers (MS Proxy Server, Novonyx Email Server, Access and SQL Server, and Web Server), and web filtering and web design; ability to provide desktop support and trouble shooting; capability of training students and staff with a positive team attitude; ability to adjust to a flexible schedule. Interested individuals, please contact: Priscilla Schmidt, Silver Falls School District, 210 East C St., Silverton, OR 97381 or email:

schmidt_priscilla@silverfalls.k12.or.us

web / internet teachers

Industrial Technology Teacher,OR

Valid Oregon teaching license. Industrial technology – woods, CAD, design. Temporary position for school year 2000-2001. contact: Carolyn Thorpe,Industrial Technology Teacher, Jefferson County School District 509-J,445 SE Buff Street, Madras, Oregon, 97741, or eMail: cthorpe@509j.net

Multi-Media Technology Instructor, IL

Instruct junior and senior high school students in multi-media authoring, computer graphics, animation, web design, and digital video production. Applicant must be eligible for Illinois Provisional Vocational Instructor Certification or hold up to 8000 hours of related work experience. Degree preferred., apply immediately, Jeff Brierton, Assistant Director for Instruction, Lake County High Schools Technology Campus, 19525 W. Washington St., Grayslake, IL, 60030, 847-223-6681, ext. 7, Fax: 847-223-7363

other

Elementary Teacher, AZ

Arizona Certification to teach in the elementary grades K-8. It is preferred that the teacher have previous success and experience in teaching Jr. High students or Special Education, or other unique experiences that would be of interest to a school of multi-grade classrooms. Contact: Ronald K. White,Superintendent,Tolani Lake Elementary School Academy, HC61-Box 300, Flagstaff, AZ,86047 or eMail: osoruns@netscape.net

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ethics and law — Acceptable-use policies are useless unless strictly enforced

In the headlong rush to get connected to the internet, few school districts take enough time to examine all of the many ramifications of opening Pandora’s Web.

Enough attention has been given to filtering pornography and documents called “acceptable-use” agreements that most public school managers have cobbled together something resembling internet policies and procedures. But even where state law requires schools to adopt policies on proper usage of computers, networks, and internet access, there is often a significant gap between the mandate and the practice.

One rather nasty confrontation arose recently in New Hampshire, where the Exeter Regional Cooperative School District forgot that enforcement of an acceptable use policy is just as important as having one in the first place (see story, page 16).

Like all school systems, Exeter was concerned about how it was going to control adolescent meanderings throughout the darker nooks and crannies of the web. The district had a pretty good policy—much better than many policies I have reviewed from around the country. It put students and faculty on notice that direct adult supervision would be required for all internet journeys by elementary pupils and that older students would be supervised.

In addition, the watchful eyes of Net Monitors were aided by modern technology. According to Exeter’s policy, “All access to the internet is monitored using a ‘firewall.’ This firewall will immediately contact us if any students or staff access undesired sites.”

If the image of a bright red light flashing in the principal’s office—perhaps accompanied by a robot-like voice intoning “Danger! Danger!”—has you doubled over with mirth, the folks up in Exeter have even more delights in store. In reality, the ominous warning about instant exposure of students or staff who wander, intentionally or accidentally, onto the dark side of the web was highly exaggerated.

In fact, like most firewall monitors, the software just kept a log of each data transfer to and from the net—no content, but size and origin of data packets were logged. Nevertheless, even though no sirens, bells, or whistles would announce transgressions of the acceptable-use policy, the school district could look at the logs and tell whether violations had occurred.

A crucial question (and the source of the lesson du jour for us all) is, If you have all of this good policy and software monitoring capability, what will really get you into major hot water? Answer: Not bothering to look at the logs to check compliance with the policy.

Apparently, that is what happened, because when a local citizen (and parent of a student) decided to ask for a peek at the logs, the school district turned him down flat and called its lawyers. The reason for the district’s reticence may have been revealed several months later at a board meeting, when the administration reported that a review of the internet history log files revealed that some unidentified users had been accessing “objectionable” web sites.

The school district has thrown up a barrage of legalistic defenses, ranging from the thin-but-arguable (internet logs are not “public documents” under the New Hampshire public access law) to the truly sublime (revealing the logs would violate the federal wiretap statute). The school district’s “invasion of privacy” defense is especially laughable—but therein lies the irony of this case.

One of the cornerstones of any acceptable-use policy is that users have no expectation of privacy when they use the internet. Like student lockers and teachers’ desk drawers, the schools’ computer system is public property, and users are told that data transmissions—from eMail messages to MP3 downloads—will be monitored.

Because of these and similar policies, the courts already have turned down legal arguments claiming invasion of privacy when employers monitor internet use. In United States v. Simons, for example, the Supreme Court tied its denial of “invasion of privacy” under the Fourth Amendment directly to the announced government “open inspection and monitoring” policy.

In short, if your school system announces that the web is “public” space for users, your claims that it is private for other purposes—including freedom of information laws—are likely to fall on deaf ears in a courtroom.

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stakeholder and community relations — Lessons in web design from an award-winning Ohio school

Combine a handful of teens, no budget, and a math teacher who is a complete web novice, and what do you get? If you’re Ohio’s Kenston High School, you get an award-winning web site, great “hands-on, minds-on” student learning, a $10,000 corporate gift—and a public relations bonanza.

“I took over the dormant KHS site during late fall of 1998,” says Ronnie Continenza, a KHS math and computer teacher. “I had no experience with web design, and a group of six seniors taught me.”

Using students’ home computers and Netscape Composer because “it was free,” Continenza and her hardy band of student volunteers built a content-rich web site that was named “Best in the USA” for 1999 by internet portal Education World.

Intrigued by KHS’s “Cool School Web Site” designation and its unique student photo galleries that let parents and far-flung relatives order eMailed copies, I asked Continenza to share some of her tips and strategies with eSchool News readers. Here’s what she had to say:

How did you get students involved in building a school web site?

You only need a few kids who can crank out pages. Find a couple of kids who have their own web sites and get them involved as student web masters. Ninety-nine percent of our pages were created on home computers and eMailed to me for posting. We didn’t have any classes or an organized club—just a dedicated group of students who did it on their own time.

The hardest part of building a site is getting timely information. The solution is to get kids involved from all aspects of school life. For example, find an athlete or two from every sport who is willing to eMail results as soon as they get home from competitions. Do the same thing with academic areas, clubs, extracurricular activities, etc. This way, you can beat the morning papers with results, and in most cases you can beat the 11 p.m. news on television. The goal is to give viewers timely content.

You seem to have many faculty members involved and engaged as well. How did you do that so successfully? Did you meet with some initial resistance?

Once the site got going, it was well received by the faculty. Posting homework assignments is a great way to let parents know what is going on in class. It’s a communication tool that helps keep parents and teachers on the same page. If a student is having trouble getting homework done, parents can be contacted and asked to monitor their child’s homework, which can be found on the site. When we started this, parents loved it!

How do you balance security concerns with having lots of students and staff involved?

First and foremost, the law is on our side. Our site is copyright-protected. If someone redistributes any photos from our site, they are breaking the law and the courts will rule in our favor. Furthermore, if they are posting our photos somewhere else on the internet, they are breaking federal laws involving minors. The law is on our side, and we won’t hesitate to use it if the need arises.

Secondly, we will not post anything a student does not want posted, and we will remove any photo of a student upon request. In the last year and a half, we have posted well over 10,000 photos of our students and have had only a handful of requests to remove something—all for “vanity” reasons (closed eyes, for example). Our students love to see themselves on the site. It’s a form of recognition. If you walk down our hallways in between classes, you will see photos from the site printed and hanging in lockers throughout the school.

We also receive daily eMails from out-of-town relatives thanking us for our timely updates. Imagine being able to call up our web site on a Saturday morning and find the Winter Formal pictures from the previous night already posted. To be able to follow a student’s progress in academics, athletics, etc., from hundreds of miles away is a dream come true for many family members.

What do you think are the keys to a great school web site?

Content, fast load times, and easy navigation. We want our viewers to think, “Call up the web site” when they want to know about anything that is happening at Kenston High School. Instead of watching the 11 o’clock news for sports results, or calling the coach for directions to an event, or calling a teacher for homework assignments, we want our viewers to know they will find the information on our site.

We also strive for fast load times for all our pages. We don’t have fancy graphics and animated GIFs on our site. We want to feed our views useful information and do it quickly. Why wait two and half minutes for a fancy graphic to load if you can get the answer you want in 12 seconds?

In terms of navigation, we want our viewers to find anything on our site within three “clicks,” or pages. We make our pages uniform so people quickly will understand how to navigate the site, and our navigation bar appears on every page. We make our categories easy to understand, and we have a search engine so parents can type in their child’s name and find every page they are on quickly.

What software and other tools do you use to create your site?

Ninety-five percent of the HTML pages were created with Netscape Composer simply because it is free. If we need to write HTML code that Netscape does not support, we hand-code using a simple editor like Word Pad. We are discussing using Microsoft Front Page this year. All interactive scripts are written in PERL [Practical Extraction and Report Language], and we use ThumbsPlus by Cerious Software to generate our thumbnail photos. We use Adobe Photoshop to re-size, crop, and edit our original photos. We use the Nikon Coolpix 900 series digital camera for taking our photos, and we use WebTrends Log Analyzer to determine our traffic and help us find errors on the site—a very useful tool! We use WS_FTP Pro [from Ipswitch Inc. of Lexington, Mass.] to upload the site.

Any other tips you’d like to share with your colleagues?

Lay out the structure of the site before you start building pages. Use sub-directories for everything. For example, if you’re posting Spirit Week photos, put them in a Spirit Week folder. This makes it much easier to find something as the site grows.

I also recommend creating a navigation system as virtual menu. That way, you only have to make changes to one page (menu.html) in order to change the navigation bar on every single page on the site.

I also think we need to be considerate of our viewers. Set any color in your navigation bar as a background image. Since background colors won’t print, you will not deplete your viewers’ ink cartridge when they print a page from your site.

How has your web site benefited your students and your school community?

Our web site has had a great impact on our school spirit and pride in the community. Being named “Best in the USA” was like winning a Super Bowl or World Series in our community. It generated an unbelievable amount of enthusiasm and support. We were overwhelmed with literally hundreds of eMails, letters, and proclamations, not to mention the television, radio, and newspaper coverage.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Coming up with new ideas for the site is an ongoing process. Education World has made this easy. I check their site every Friday night to see who the new weekly winner is. I also revisit past winners. These sites change constantly, and we’ve gotten a number of great ideas from them.

What’s next for the KHS “Web Builders”?

We’re using the $10,000 we received from Cisco to upgrade our network. Information was traveling across our school at a rate of 10 megabits per second (Mbps). Thanks to Cisco, it is now traveling at a rate of 100 Mbps. We will be offering a hands-on web design class this year. We have 20 computers in our lab, and more than 80 students have signed up for the course.

Kenston High School

http://www.kenston.k12.oh.us/khs/khs.html

Education World’s “Cool School of the Week” Awards

http://www.educationworld.com/cool_school

Netscape Composer

http://www.netscape.com

Cerious Software’s ThumbsPlus

http://www.cerious.com

Adobe Photoshop

http://www.adobe.com

WS_FTP Pro

http://www.ipswitch.com

WebTrends Analyzer

http://www.webtrends.com

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