Maryland House votes to allow cell phones and pagers in schools

The Maryland House of Delegates voted Feb. 9 to repeal a state law that makes it illegal for students to bring pagers and cell phones onto school grounds.

The 110-26 House vote followed a spirited debate, during which supporters argued that cell phones help parents and students stay in touch, while opponents warned that allowing phones and pagers in school will encourage drug crime and distract students.

The law was passed in 1989 at a time school officials were worried that students were using pagers to set up drug deals.

“This is an obsolete law,” Delegate Ann Marie Doory, D-Baltimore, said. She told delegates that it bans not only pagers, the original target, but also cell phones and laptop computers.

Supporters said many students, especially those in after-school activities, need cell phones to let parents know when those activities end, arrange rides, and just stay in touch.

“It’s no longer considered a drug issue. It’s a safety issue,” Delegate Joseph Vallario, D-Prince George’s, said. He said if the law is repealed, local school systems will have the power to ban cell phones from school grounds or regulate their use.

That did not satisfy Delegate Joanne Benson, D-Prince George’s, a public school teacher and administrator.

“I am in adamant opposition to HB67 as a 38-year educator,” Benson said. “I can’t imagine how we could have our youngsters with a phone.” She predicted cell phones will be a distraction in classes and will put yet another burden on overworked teachers and administrators.

The bill will now go to the Senate, which has not yet acted on its bill dealing with pagers and cell phones.

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Senate bill aims to restrict commercialism in schools

Schools would have to ask for parents’ permission before any student information could be collected and used for commercial purposes, and they’d have to develop and adopt a policy with parents concerning in-school commercial activities, under a bipartisan bill introduced into the Senate Feb. 8.

The bill, called the Student Privacy Protection Act and sponsored by Sens. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., and Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., aims to involve and inform parents about commercialism in schools.

According to a September 2000 report by the General Accounting Office (GAO), tight budgets have forced many schools to seek alternative revenue sources to pay for new technology or sponsor student activities. As a result, schools are permitting their classrooms to be used for marketing, the GAO report found.

“More and more, schools are being perceived not just as centers for learning, but centers for consumer research,” said Dodd, who added that the bill stemmed from the GAO’s investigation. “Our children should be instilled with knowledge, not tapped for information on their spending habits.”

From ads on the sides of buses or internet browsers, to soft-drink sponsorships, to student surveys, commercialism is becoming increasingly prevalent in schools.

“Many schools enter into commercial contracts with advertisers because, as the GAO found, they are strapped for cash,” Dodd said. “Schools often are faced with two poor choices—provide computers, books, and other educational … equipment with commercial advertising, or not at all.”

Channel One, the most often cited example, offers schools free equipment and a daily news program in exchange for showing television ads to students. Thirty-eight percent of U.S. middle and high schools are connected to Channel One, the GAO report found.

ZapMe!, which is now rStar Networks, gave schools up to 15 computers with 17-inch monitors, internet access, and a printer in exchange for continuously displaying ads on their computer screens. Though rStar Networks continues to support ZapMe!-installed machines, the company does not offer new contracts to schools, and schools that originally signed up for the service now have to pay for the equipment.

The new bill wouldn’t outlaw these types of practices; instead, it would make sure parents are aware of them and are part of the decision-making process. According to the GAO report, not all districts disclose the details of these agreements to parents, and many parents aren’t aware these kinds of activities are going on.

“This bill would return to parents the right to protect their children’s privacy,” Dodd said.

“It does not ban advertising, nor does it ban market research. It simply requires that, before a researcher can start asking a young student to provide personal information, that researcher must obtain parental consent or its equivalent.”

Schools would have to explain to parents who will collect such information, how it will be used, and how much class time the process will consume.

A similar law, called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), has been in effect since April 2000. COPPA requires web sites that collect personal information from children ages 12 and under to get parents’ permission first. The Student Privacy Protection Act would go a step further and apply to any collection of information for marketing purposes at any K-12 school.

Also, the bill would force schools to develop commercialism policies in consultation with parents. All parents must be informed of the school’s commercialism policy, as well as any changes or exceptions that alter that policy.

“I do not personally see the harm in letting parents know what’s in the schools,” said Lori Cole, executive director of the Eagle Forum, a pro-family, grassroots organization. “I think the more we get parental involvement in schools, the better.”

Links:

Sen. Christopher Dodd
http://www.senate.gov/~dodd


Sen. Richard Shelby
http://www.senate.gov/~shelby


The Eagle Forum
http://www.eagleforum.org


Channel One
http://www.channelone.com


rStar Networks
http://zapme.com

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‘Archiving Early America’ brings colonial age to computer age

At “Archiving Early America,” students will find a wealth of instructive and entertaining resources. The main focus is primary-source material from 18th-century America, all displayed digitally. A unique array of original newspapers, maps, and writings come to life on the screen, just as they appeared to our forebears more than 200 years ago. As students browse through these original documents, they will gain a better understanding of America’s early residents, those who shaped and created the new republic. These archival materials, which form a historical record of a significant time in the American experience, are displayed in their original formats, so they can be read and examined close-up and in detail. Of special interest are two issues of the Maryland Gazette (March 21 and 28, 1754) containing George Washington’s journal of his historic trip to the Ohio Valley. It is the only original copy privately held. Because of its historic significance and its rarity (most Americans are unaware of its existence), the journal can be viewed here in its entirety—exactly as Washington wrote it, down to the last comma, apostrophe, and period. It’s available in the Milestone Documents section of the site. All of the site’s materials are proprietary and protected under copyright laws, but commercial use of these images is available by license.

http://www.earlyamerica.com

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Discover the origins of scientific breakthroughs at “BeyondDiscovery.org”

Produced by the National Academy of Sciences, “Beyond Discovery: The Path from Research to Human Benefit” is a series of articles that trace the origins of important recent technological and medical advances. Each story reveals the crucial role played by basic science, the applications of which could not have been anticipated at the time of the original research. “Unraveling the Enigma of Vitamin D,” for example, focuses on the twists and turns leading to the discovery and understanding of vitamin D, a substance that occurs naturally in only a few foods and also is manufactured in the skin when a precursor interacts with the short ultraviolet rays of the sun. “When the Earth Moves” reveals the discovery of sea floor spreading and the origin of plate tectonics theory, and “The Global Positioning System” discusses the role of atomic clocks and the centuries-old search for a system that would enable people to locate their position on the globe with the accuracy necessary to reach their intended destinations and avoid tragedy. “Human Gene Testing” explores the trail of research that led scientists to answer questions about heredity and open the door to gene testing, which promises to transform medicine completely. “The Ozone Depletion Phenomenon” answers questions such as, “What is the ozone?” and “How did researchers discover its role in the Earth’s atmosphere and the devastating consequences of its depletion?”

http://www.beyonddiscovery.org

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Tap into a wealth of scientific material at this NASA web site

The goal of NASA’s Learning Technologies Project (LTP) is to promote the growth of a national information infrastructure using the vast amount of scientific information that NASA has acquired. The corresponding web site offers a rich array of resources, such as online instructional materials tied to NASA missions, movies, aeronautics projects, and the Remote Sensing Public Access Center, which makes space instrumentation data available to the public. Access to this knowledge allows the public, academia, and industry to contribute to rapid and significant advances in science, engineering, and technology. This access assists educators and others in creating new curriculum products and tools for enhancing K-12 education. LTP has four distinct areas that carry out its mission. The first is LEARNERS, an acronym that stands for “Leading Educators to Applications, Research, and NASA-unique Educational Resources in Science.” The second area, Regional Outreach Centers, encourages projects that use internet-based instructional materials tied to NASA missions, affordable and innovative K-12 projects that are widely disseminated to the educational community, and NASA activities that inspire students to undertake careers in science, math, and engineering. The Legacy Projects section includes information about grant projects and cooperative agreements that have entered into no-cost extensions. Finally, the site includes technological research within LTP, such as digital testbeds, in its Technology Developments section.

http://learn.arc.nasa.gov

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From

The George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF) has redesigned its web site to provide visitors with easy access to innovative stories about teaching and learning for the digital age. GLEF is a nonprofit foundation that gathers and disseminates the most innovative models of K-12 teaching and learning. It serves this mission through the creation of media, from films, books, and newsletters, to CD-ROMs and web-based materials. The GLEF web site uses digital technology to act as a web-based multimedia resource center, providing hundreds of powerful examples of learning and teaching already successful in our nation’s schools. This information is provided on demand to a worldwide audience in an effort to stimulate active involvement and guide choices in school reform. The GLEF audience includes teachers, administrators, school board members, other elected officials, parents, researchers, and business and community leaders. The site’s web-based articles, video clips, and other resources are organized into three major categories: Innovative Classrooms, Skillful Educators, and Involved Communities. New content includes articles on topics critical to teaching and learning, such as “Emotional Intelligence,” “Coaching the Coaches,” and “Parents as Partners.”

http://www.glef.org

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Buddy up to this web site for lesson plans and collaborative projects

“The Buddy Project: Teacher Resources” offers a host of web sites, guides, and information to help educators integrate technology successfully into the classroom. Launched in 1988 by the Indianapolis-based nonprofit Corporation for Educational Technology, the Buddy Project is funded through a variety of sources, including a state initiative through the Indiana General Assembly, as well as contributions and grants from public and private funds. According to its web site, the project “develops and facilitates demonstration projects of leading-edge student learning environments for K-12 schools using technology in anytime, anywhere settings.” Teachers from around the country can get lesson plans created by their peers that connect technology with classroom curriculum, and they can get links to other web sites showing how schools have published curriculum that integrates the internet. Using Adobe Acrobat Reader, teachers can view and print the handouts that Buddy Project facilitators have created. These handouts offer tips for integrating technology into classroom curriculum, as well as tips for establishing school-home connections. Teachers can find out how their school can step beyond the classroom walls by joining collaborative projects, and they can learn how to enter contests that could earn money, equipment, software, or other awards.

http://www.buddyproject.org/teach/default.asp

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Dept. of Ed’s ‘eRate and the Digital Divide’ details the eRate’s impacts

With all the talk of political threats to the eRate program, you might be asking yourself exactly what the eRate has done for U.S. schools thus far. The answer is contained in the U.S Department of Education’s 231-page report, entitled “eRate and the Digital Divide: A Preliminary Analysis From the Integrated Studies of Educational Technology.” This report offers the first comprehensive consideration of the effects of the federal Universal Service Administrative Company’s eRate program, administered by the Schools and Libraries Division of USAC and created as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 “to provide discounts on the cost of telecommunications services and equipment to all public and private schools and libraries.” The aim of the eRate is to make internet connections more affordable for schools, particularly for schools in lower-income areas. The report—available in PDF format—analyzes the effects of the eRate on targeted schools. Prepared by Michael J. Puma, Duncan D. Chaplin, and Andreas D. Pape, this September 2000 publication provides an overview of ED’s findings. To get a general overview of the report, start with the Executive Summary.

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

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Point your browser to this web site for practical PowerPoint guidance

“PowerPoint in the Classroom” is an eight-part tutorial to help K-12 teachers incorporate the use of Microsoft’s PowerPoint effectively in the classroom. PowerPoint is a high-powered software tool used for presenting information in a dynamic slide show format. Text, charts, graphs, sound effects, and video are just some of the elements PowerPoint can incorporate into school presentations. Whether it’s a classroom lesson, a parents’ group meeting, a teachers’ seminar, or an unattended kiosk at the science fair, learning PowerPoint can help educators and administrators make a powerful impression on their audience. This site helps educators learn the basics of using PowerPoint’s toolbars, laying out information, saving, and moving information to the presentation site. Just to tweak your memory, the tutorial includes a quiz question at the end of each new section. The “Cool For School” page is a great source for extra tips and tricks for using PowerPoint in the classroom.

http://www.actden.com/pp

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Don’t be afraid to call or even visit program officers

At February’s eSchool News Grants and Funding conference in New Orleans, federal program officers were unable to attend because of the change in administrations. This dilemma led me to start one of my sessions with the following piece of advice: You can visit program officers at their offices, and you should!

Program officers are responsible for providing information about the grant program they are affiliated with and giving technical assistance to potential applicants. The contact information for a grant’s program officer can be found in the grant’s request for proposals (RFP).

I just attended an RFP workshop in which the federal program officer actually gave his home eMail address and said we should not hesitate to contact him on weekends if we needed to. Take advantage of this contact information, but don’t abuse it.

Don’t be afraid to get in touch with program officers and draw upon their knowledge and expertise. I have found many program officers to be extremely helpful and receptive to answering my questions. In some cases, this has saved me from submitting a proposal that would not score high enough to be competitive.

I suggest that you contact program officers to do the following:

o Discuss your intended project before starting the proposal, especially if you are not clear whether there is a “tight fit” between your idea and the purpose of the grant program.

o Ask specific questions you might have related to your project, your proposal, or the grant program itself. Do not, however, pick up the phone and call a program officer if you haven’t even read the RFP yet. Program officers are far too busy for these types of “fishing expedition” phone calls!

o Ask them to refer you to a prior grantee who may share some similarities with you in terms of project ideas or demographics.

Depending on your level of interest in federal grants and the travel funds available in your district’s budget, it might be worth your while to schedule a trip to Washington to visit with several program officers face to face. This is easy to do, because the various grant offices are located in close proximity to one another. I would encourage you to schedule these visits during “down” time (usually the summer), rather than at the height of the grants season. It is conceivable that spending a day or two in Washington could result in your seeing as many as 10 or more program officers!

Prepare in advance for your visit with the program officers. Review the RFPs for the grant programs you are interested in and make a list of the questions that you have regarding the RFPs. Write brief abstracts of your proposed projects, so the program officers have something they can read and react to. Take careful notes of your discussion, so you have something you can refer to when you return. Ask the program officers if they will review a draft of your proposal before final submission (yes, it’s hard to believe, but some federal program officers in certain programs will do this!).

Remember, program officers want high-quality proposals—and they want to help you produce them. View them as important members of your grant-seeking team.

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