‘School board of tomorrow’ convenes in Pittsburgh

Frustrated by the stacks of paper its school board members muddled through during board meetings, the technology department at the Pittsburgh Public Schools devised a plan to enable the board migrate to paperless meetings.

“It drove me nuts when I went to the school board meetings,” said Carole Salisbury, acting director of technology at the Pittsburgh Public Schools. “The public doesn’t know what the board members are talking about. All you see is them shuffling through papers.”

Typical to school board meetings, the agendas are hundreds of pages long and color-coded and board members often scribble notes all over them.

“We said you guys are leaders of this district and if you are going to put out $10.5 million in three years on technology, you have got to be examples,” said Glenn Ponas, acting coordinator of instructional technology.

On June 11, the technology department demonstrated different technologies the board members could use that would not only get rid of the paper cluttering up board meetings but that also would enhance communication among board members. Impressed by the possibilities, the board agreed to learn the new technologies over the summer and by September it aims to be completely paperless.

Board members in Pittsburgh intend to avoid clashes with so-called Sunshine Laws. Such open-meeting laws and rules have tripped up board members elsewhere. In Beaufort County, S.C., for example, the school board ran afoul of the state Sunshine Law by using a private internet bulletin board to discuss school district business. It’s too soon to say whether Pittsburgh’s board will avoid similar tech-induced tangles, but it’s fair to say the board’s critics will be watching.

There will be plenty to see. First, Pittsburgh’s board members will trade in their heavy laptops for smaller, lighter, more powerful notebooks. Salisbury said the district will lease laptops that weigh less than three pounds. As for the old computers, she plans to use those in a laptop-lending pilot program, where students can sign them out from the library.

Not only will the new laptops be light, but they also will be wireless. “Any time [board members] are in the school administration building, they’ll be able to access the network,” Ponas said.

To print and access the internet at home, the board members need simply to plug their computers into docking ports. Currently, the district offers all its employees home internet access through the district’s network. Key to the paperless environment is a separate web site created specifically for the board members. The web site will also feature an area for threaded discussions where board members can chat. “It’s a place where they can engage in informal discussion and ask questions,” Ponas said.

Most importantly, board members and district staff will be able to post items to the web site and access the things they need, Ponas said. Instead of receiving materials in the traditional way, board members will be able to download PDF versions of their agendas and other documents.

This will save district staff from having to photocopy and distribute lengthy documents. Salisbury said the idea is to cut the paperwork. “We won’t be bogged down . . ., and then [all the information will] be archived,” she said.

The software loaded on the laptops will allow board members to make notes directly onto the electronic documents. Microsoft’s Office XP will let them type their own notes in the margin of a document, and even color-code them if they want, Salisbury said. Adobe Acrobat also allows users to enter notes onto files. If board members have questions about specific items, they can copy and paste the items into eMail messages to quickly get a response.

In addition, the school board meeting room will permanently house a digital projection device. Board members will plug their laptops into the projection unit, and as they go to a document, the current page will be displayed on a large screen for everyone to see. With a click of a button, board members will be able automatically to flip to a specific page.

“The nice part is everyone is going to be on the same page,” Salisbury said. “Whatever they’re viewing the public can see it too. If they are looking at page 75, the public is looking at page 75.”

The digital projection device also will allow the board to do video teleconferencing. To illustrate the concept of video-conferencing during the presentation, the technology department arranged for a video teleconference between the board and an executive from Blue Cross Blue Shield. More than just a demonstration, the members actually were able to conduct some business.

If a board member is away at a business meeting across the country, and he or she doesn’t want to miss the school board meeting, that board member will be able to participate through teleconferencing, Salisbury said. The board member merely needs to know how to use a web cam. Every school principal in the district will have a web cam in her or his office and be able to attend meetings with the school board or others virtually.

In addition, board members will be able to sign out digital camcorders and cameras to help them take notes when they visit schools.

“If they see something great or something that isn’t right, they can take their digital camera and take a photo of it,” Salisbury said.

This will help the members explain to the board and public exactly what they mean. During meetings they can show the pictures or play the video for everyone using the digital projector.

Eventually, the technology department hopes to get the board members using personal digital assistants for memos and as a rolodex. “They need to get their feet wet with the basic technology first,” Ponas said.


Pittsburgh Public Schools


Virtual Ink Honors Two in ‘Think Ink’ Contest

Virtual Ink Corp., developer of mimio®, an award-winning collaboration tool, has announced two winners of its new “Think Ink” Contest. Designed to promote creative ways for educators worldwide to capture and share handwritten notes and drawings from classroom whiteboards, the contest will award a free mimio each month to the parent, student, teacher, or administrator who submits the most innovative, creative, or original entry to incorporate the use of mimio in their school or classroom.

Mimio is a digital collaboration technology for PC and Mac platforms that attaches to any whiteboard and electronically captures everything that is written or drawn, in color and in real time. Rooted in the classroom, mimio originated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a practical solution to a frustrating teaching dilemma: students were so focused on accurately duplicating the drawings on the classroom’s whiteboard, they often missed important lecture details and failed to actively participate in class discussions. The solution was to digitally capture and share hand-drawn information as it was created, allowing students to spend less time taking notes and more time learning.

“We’re pleased to announce that the first winner is Pauline Luther, a resource teacher and an Apple distinguished educator from the Pinellas County School District in Largo, Florida. Luther’s winning entry illustrated a variety of innovative ways she would capture and share information in her roles as an Apple distinguished educator, college professor, district trainer, conference speaker, and school advisory council member,” stated Greg McHale, president and CEO of Virtual Ink.

“With mimio, I will be able to capture the students’ ideas and share those ideas digitally with the entire class, as well as other groups that I teach. Not only will their ideas be shared, but they will have the knowledge and experience of using a tool that enhances learning,” said Luther.

Paul Ladd, the contest’s second winner and a student at Tidewater Community College in Virginia Beach, Va., was selected as the most recent recipient. His submission described how a borrowed mimio had helped him overcome a visual impairment that has prevented him from seeing notes and drawings written on classroom whiteboards.

“Paul’s submission was an eye-opener for everyone at our company,” said McHale. “Here is a student who will use our technology to overcome a lifelong disability and for the first time be able to participate in classes in a way that most of us take for granted. To know that we can offer that kind of solution and assistance to someone who has had to work so hard for so long is inspiring to all of us.”

Ladd first learned of mimio when Tom Lee, the technology director at Tidewater Community College, showed Ladd how mimio could assist in his classes. Lee connected mimio to Ladd’s laptop and then began writing on his office whiteboard. With mimio attached to any standard dry-erase whiteboard, everything written, drawn and erased on the whiteboard is captured to a computer in color and in real time. The information is recorded and saved as digital “ink” files that can be played back later, which allowed Ladd to revisit previous class notes hours and days later.

Previously, Ladd’s visual impairment had kept him from being able to see class material as it was written on the classroom whiteboards. With mimio, he is now able to see the whiteboard material on his computer as it was written and fully participate in class for the first time.

“When I saw mimio for the first time, I knew that this was an answer to my single greatest obstacle in school. I went home afterwards and thought about how much this would help and I was so happy, I couldn’t help but cry,” said Ladd. “Tom Lee let me borrow his mimio until I could get one of my own. While using his mimio, I scored a perfect 100 for the first time on a recent quiz.”

“If you think about how hard he works without many of the advantages that we take for granted in education, [such as] the ability to see the lesson presented by the teacher, it should be astounding to see what will happen for him in the future,” said Lee. “I’m delighted that I could help him.”

The contest is open to educators from around the world. Educators interested in entering the “Think Ink” contest can do so by visiting the web site below and completing an entry form. Entrants should describe the creative ways they would incorporate mimio to foster greater student-teacher collaboration and productivity within the classroom. For more information visit, http://www.mimio.com/education


NASA and corporate allies to launch first education-only satellite project

An alliance of corporate leaders promoting the use of school technology is sending K-12 distance education into orbit with the announcement of a satellite dedicated specifically to educational projects.

In a ceremony at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, the SchoolTone Alliance announced the launch of Project LearningBird, a distance learning initiative in collaboration with the Ohio Consortium for Advanced Communications Technology (OCACT) and Ohio University.

Project LearningBird will use NASA’s Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS) to transmit education information. With all of the satellite’s original research objectives completed, NASA is transferring operation of the spacecraft’s communications payload to OCACT for educational uses.

“This is the first time NASA has turned over a satellite that is no longer good for their purposes to an educational consortium,” said Irene Spero, director of the SchoolTone Alliance. “The technology is very advanced—it allows for faster transmission of data with a higher degree of clarity than we’ve had previously.”

Launched in 1993, ACTS was the first satellite with the ability to carry digital communications at standard fiber-optic data rates with the same quality of transmission. Project LearningBird will use ACTS to transmit data at high speed over great distances and to the most remote locations.

“The consortium has the impressive potential to advance education and commercial technology development across the state of Ohio and beyond,” said Donald J. Campbell, director of the Glenn Center.

John Graham, founder and co-chairman of Broadware Technologies and a SchoolTone Alliance board member, will head Project LearningBird over the next four years. According to Graham, the technology underlying the ACTS makes it particularly useful for educational purposes.

Unlike typical commercial satellites, which use the Ku-band spectrum (10.7 GHz to 14.5 GHz), ACTS operates on the high-frequency 17.3 GHz to 31.0 GHz Ka-band spectrum.

“The Ka-band is the highest frequency spectrum the [Federal Communications Commission] has attempted to use so far. Ka-band satellite technology is so much better than cable or DSL [digital subscriber line] technology, or even the typical Ku-band, because it can be symmetrical,” said Graham.

“Most [satellite connections] are asymmetrical, meaning that users receive signals, but they can’t send signals out,” he continued. “The key to using satellite technology to collaborate over long distances is having symmetrical access. The Ka technology is well within [that ability].”

By joining OCACT, SchoolTone Alliance members will be able to use the satellite for demonstration projects over the next four years. That’s the amount of time NASA has guaranteed for the life of the satellite, explained Spero.

“This satellite would have been blown up had it not been transferred to an educational organization,” she said. “It’s really incredible. How great—to take a technology investment and leverage it for other experiments.”

LearningBird will allow schools and other educational institutions to deliver broadband courses online, interact with experts in remote locations, promote professional development for teachers, and access high-quality, real-time content from leading educators and content providers.

The LearningBird program is still under development, and project directors are in the process of defining how it will operate.

Spero said project directors would encourage collaborative projects in which K-12 institutions partner with businesses or higher-education institutions that are part of OCACT. Educators who would like to participate in the project should join the consortium or contact a potential SchoolTone Alliance partner and submit a proposal.

SchoolTone Alliance member companies include bigchalk.com, Blackboard Inc., HighWired.com, Lucent Technologies, National Semiconductor, ACTV HyperTVNetworks, AOL@School, Simplexis.com, and Sun Microsystems.

“If we can schedule it in and everyone agrees it is a worthwhile project, we’ll make it happen,” said Graham. “I’m ready to start building up the schedule immediately. Right now, the satellite is severely underused.”

Graham said the alliance’s first intended use of LearningBird, pending approval, will be an interactive distance-learning project connecting public schools in Oakland, Calif., with United Nations Environment Program Goodwill Ambassador Dr. John Francis on his “Planetwalk” across Cuba.

As part of the inaugural project, students in both countries will be able to track the progress of Francis’s walk. The research mission of the walk is to study organic agriculture in Cuba, as well as to conduct a general survey of environmental and conservation efforts on the island.

The project will use ACTS to create portable, interactive links from remote locations that will allow students to communicate with Francis and each other.

The Cuba Planetwalk will cover 1,000 kilometers from Havana to Santiago, the sister city of Oakland, from November 2001 through January 2002. Francis, who is on a lifetime goodwill walk around the world, already has crossed the United States and South America on foot.

LearningBird projects most likely will be short-term projects—like the Cuba Planetwalk—rather than year-long or ongoing projects. That’s because the satellite dish that enables LearningBird downloads costs about $100,000, a figure that prohibits most educational institutions from getting their own.

That being the case, school participating in Project LearningBird must make use of a portable dish that travels from site to site.

“We received terminals through NASA, too, so I’m going to mount a VSAT [Very Small Aperture Terminal] to a trailer so we can haul it around and install it at different places,” said Graham. “That’s why right now this is an event-based program.”


SchoolTone Alliance

Ohio Consortium for Advanced Communications Technology

NASA Glenn Research Center

Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS)


FCC nixes proposed change to eRate priority

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided not to change the priority for eRate discounts in Program Year Four, which began July 1. But the agency did extend the deadline for using funds for internal connections and other “nonrecurring services” from June 30 to September 30 for this year’s applicants, as well as all future program years.

The FCC’s June 29 ruling means that only applicants who qualify for 90-percent eRate discounts will receive funding for their internal connections this year—the wiring, routers, hubs, switches, and file servers necessary to bring internet access into classrooms.

But even these 90-percenters won’t get everything they asked for. Because of the extraordinarily high demand for eRate discounts this year, the Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Co., the group that administers the eRate, estimates there will be enough money to fund only 73 percent of each such applicants’ requests.

Schools and libraries submitted 37,188 Year Four eRate applications requesting a total of $5.195 billion—more than twice the amount available, which is capped at $2.25 billion. In light of this huge demand, the FCC on April 30 proposed changing the priority for discounts so that schools and libraries not receiving funds for internal connections last year would have priority this year.

The existing rules for administering the eRate say requests for telecommunications services and internet access have first priority. After these requests have been met, any leftover funds are distributed for internal connections—on a prorated basis—to the neediest applicants first. That means each school or library in the highest discount band would receive only a portion of the funds it requested if there is not enough money to fund all such requests.

“If applicants were to receive only a pro rata portion of the support they requested, schools and libraries might not receive sufficient funding to permit completion of a useful system of internal connections. As a result, schools and libraries would be in a position of hiring contractors to perform only a portion of an internal connection project,” the FCC said in its April 30 Notice of Proposed Rule-Making.

As a solution, the FCC proposed giving priority to requests for internal connections made by schools and libraries that did not receive funding commitments for internal connections during the previous funding year.

In its notice, the FCC said it was concerned that some applicants eligible for 90-percent discounts might receive funding for multiple years, while others that are also economically disadvantaged—but to a lesser degree—might not receive any discounts at all.

While most applicants and education groups filing comments about the proposed changes agreed with this point, they expressed concern that revising the rules of priority after the application process had closed wouldn’t be fair.

“eRate funding is closely tied into our annual budgeting process,” wrote officials from the St. Louis Public Schools. “Had we known of the change in rules prior to the application deadline, other arrangements could have been made to cover ongoing internal connections costs.”

Another consequence of the proposed change would be that “schools and districts that received only minor funding for internal connections in Year Three would be disallowed any access to funds in Year Four,” St. Louis officials wrote. “This does not ‘fix’ the problem.”

“We’re pleased that the FCC didn’t make any changes concerning Year Four funding,” said Mary Conk, legislative specialist for the American Association of School Administrators. “It’s not fair to change the rules mid-game.”

If school districts had known about the changes ahead of time, they could have applied for eRate discounts specifically for the buildings that hadn’t received funding before, Conk said.

While declining to make a change in Year Four, the FCC said it would consider making changes to the eRate’s rules of priority for future years. The agency cited comments from some school districts—including Evergreen School District #50 in Vancouver, Wash.—arguing that a change to the rules would ensure that all needy schools receive eRate discounts, not just those in the 90-percent discount band.

Extra time for wiring projects

The FCC also decided to permanently change the deadline by which nonrecurring services, such as wiring projects, must be implemented from June 30 to September 30. In making this change, the agency noted that it had extended the deadline each year since the beginning of the program anyway, giving applicants more time to install equipment during the summer months when school is not in session.

The FCC also established four scenarios in which districts could extend the deadline beyond September 30 for the implementation of nonrecurring services:

    1. Applicants who receive their funding commitment letter after March 1 of the funding year;

    2. Applicants who are authorized to make changes to their services or providers on or after March 1 of the funding year;

    3. Applicants whose service providers are not able to complete implementation for reasons beyond their control; and

    4. Applicants whose funding is delayed because of an investigation into program compliance.

If one of these criteria is met before March 1, the applicant would have until September 30 of that year to complete implementation. If one of the criteria is satisfied after March 1, the applicant would have until September of the following year to complete implementation.

Conk said the decision to extend the deadline for using funds for internal connections and other nonrecurring services was a “natural one,” because school districts have needed more time to complete these projects since the eRate began.


Report and Order, FCC 01-195

Further Notice of Proposed Rule-Making, FCC 01-143

Schools and Libraries Division

American Association of School Administrators


Wireless devices steal the show at NECC 2001

Wireless was the most often heard buzzword among K-12 educators, school administrators, and exhibitors attending the 2001 National Education Computing Conference (NECC) held in Chicago June 25 to June 27.

While Apple Computer Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, the first keynote speaker at NECC, had the attention of a captive audience of thousands of superintendents, technology directors, and teachers, he took the opportunity to discuss Apple’s products—specifically the new iBook, which features a built-in antenna for wireless capability.

“We believe wirelessly connected notebooks are the way of the future,” Jobs told the audience. Many attendees lined up more than two hours before Jobs was scheduled to speak. Instead of hearing about leadership and vision, Jobs compared Apple’s new iBook to Compaq and Dell laptops.

“Apple is No. 1 in education notebooks, which is good,” Jobs said. “We’re also No. 1 in wireless education notebooks.”

He was sure to point out that it was lighter, thinner, had a larger screen, and was “only slightly bigger than a sheet of 8-and-a-half by 11 [inch] paper.”

“That is not what we expected for a keynote,” said Gloria Daxe, third-grade teacher at Cooks Corners Elementary School in Valparaiso, Ind.

“I really did want to hear Steve Jobs,” Daxe said. “I kept thinking he would get to the topic, and it was only to do his info-commercial.”

The next day, keynote speaker Janiece Webb, senior vice president and general manager of Motorola’s Internet Software and Content Group, continued the theme of wireless as she described the use of Motorola’s two-way messaging Timeport in schools.

“We started with computer labs, then moved them to the classroom. The next step is putting one in the hands of each child,” Webb said in an interview.

Wireless technology provides any time, anywhere learning, its proponents say. It makes communication instant. “It frees you to work in an environment you want to learn in,” Webb said. The vendors displaying their products at NECC reinforced this idea by showing videos of students working on wireless computers and handheld computers while outside near trees, grass, and streams.

“Teachers can’t be bound by a phone line to connect to the internet. We have to bring the connectivity to where they are,” Webb said.

When choosing a wireless device, Webb said it is important to choose one that has applications created to make it useful in the classroom.

This idea was echoed on the exhibit floor, as many computer companies—such as Apple, Compaq, and Palm—shared their floor space at the show with software companies so they could demonstrate various applications that can run on their technology.

For example, the Sun Microsystems booth also featured products from content providers such as bigchalk.com, Classwell Learning Group, and the McGraw-Hill Learning Network.

Webb said a wireless device also should be intuitive. “If it takes me more than five minutes to learn, then I won’t use it. I don’t have time,” she said.

George Warren, director of K-12 marketing for Compaq’s education division, said the rage about wireless is its cost and size, combined with functionality. “The price factor is what’s driving it, but I think it’s the mobility that makes [the technology] work for kids,” Warren said. Compaq showed off its iPaq Pocket PC wireless handheld device at the conference.

Andrew S. Morrison, CEO of Cognitive Concepts, agreed that “wireless is the next big thing. It’s a great model for schools.”

But he pointed out that many school districts will not get wireless internet access anytime soon, especially poorer schools. “Wireless is still science fiction for many of those school districts,” Morrison said.


Apple Computer Inc.

Motorola Inc.

Compaq Computer Corp.

Cognitive Concepts Inc.


Adobe Systems Inc. unveiled Adobe PageMaker 7.0, which allows teachers and students to create documents that can be viewed on any device—including personal digital assistants (PDAs)—while maintaining the same professional-quality results. Being able to output PageMaker 7.0 files to tagged Adobe PDF files is important as more classes use wireless devices to save notes and view materials. For instance, education materials created in PageMaker 7.0 can be converted to Adobe PDF format and automatically reflowed so that finished documents can be viewed in print, on the web, or with wireless devices and PDAs. The latest version also lets users import Photoshop or Illustrator designs directly into PageMaker 7.0. PageMaker 7.0 will be available to educators for the estimated street price of $289 for the full product and $79 for upgrades from previous versions. http://www.adobe.com

Apex Learning Inc., a builder and operator of virtual schools, now has agreements in 23 states to offer its online courses, Advanced Placement (AP) exam preparation, and teaching resources to high school students and teachers. In addition, Apex Learning added six new AP foreign language courses for grades nine to 12 in French, German, and Spanish as the result of a partnership with Power-Glide International Inc., a creator of innovative foreign language courses. The company also announced the hiring of Sue Collins, a 30-year veteran of educational technology and a member of the congressional Web-based Education Commission, to be its chief education officer. http://www.apexlearning.com

A partnership between America Online Inc. and EdVISION Corp. means that AOL@School—a free education portal with separate sections geared toward teachers, students, and administrators—will now feature lesson plans aligned to state standards for more than 40 states. Teachers who want to find lesson plans correlated to state standards can simply log on, select the appropriate state and learning objective, and immediately find lesson plans aligned to that skill. http://www.school.aol.com

The newest AT&T Learning Network tool for educators, called Assess Your Options, is an online portal that brings together comprehensive information and resources on local and national assessment models, state standards, test prepartation, online testing tools, and general assessment issues. Using this feature, teachers can explore various models of assessment available on the market to determine what they should use in their classrooms. http://www.att.com/learningnetwork

Bigchalk Integrated Classroom, from bigchalk.com, is a new online tool designed to help teachers add immediacy and relevance to any classroom lesson with engaging online content. Using Integrated Classroom, teachers can access selected internet resources, multimedia content, full-text magazine and newspaper articles, and an archive of more than 15,000 correlated lesson plans. The service also has the capability of aligning its online resources to a number of textbooks, supplementary curriculum, state standards, and assessments used in a specific school district. http://www.bigchalk.com

Boxer Learning released BoxerMath: Fundamental Math, a new web-based curriculum to teach math basics for grades three to five. Fundamental Math includes 139 activities in four topic areas covering core math concepts, including numbers, addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, fractions, and decimals and percents. Starting this fall, Fundamental Math will be offered as a separte module of BoxerMath.com. All other BoxerMath courses—including algebra, geometry, and trigonometry—will be offered as part of the new Secondary Math module. http://www.boxermath.com

BritannicaSchool, a division of Britannica.com Inc., unveiled its new K-12 BritannicaSchool web site, which offers an array of reference, curriculum, and creativity tools for the classroom. On the web site, students and teachers can access Britannica’s encyclopedias, an internet guide, a dictionary and thesaurus, world maps, journals and magazines, and daily themes. The site also features interactive lessons, study guides, and an instant messaging feature. In addition, BritannicaSchool has an assortment of assessment tools and curriculum resources correlated to state standards. Created in conjunction with Education Development Center, BritannicaSchool also offers a series of online professional development programs to help teachers integrate technology into daily lessons. http://www.britannicaschool.com

Student information is now accessible from any internet-connected device, any time, anywhere with Chancery Software’s release of Open District version 2.3. “Rather than tie users to a web browser and a desktop computer, we will give administrators, teachers, and parents the power and mobility to interact with student data using palm-sized computers, cell phones, and personal digital assistants—whereever they happen to be,” said Rick Moignard, Chancery’s president and CEO. This latest version of Open District—which uses Microsoft’s .NET, a technology that won’t be released to the general market until this fall—will alert all appropriate staff to student information. For example, if a student is late for school, the system will notify the attendance clerk as well as parents. Microsoft’s .NET technology allows Chancery to take its software beyond the limitations of the web and deliver “smart” services such as data mining, automatic notification, and web-based videoconferencing technical support in real time, the company said. http://www.chancery.com

Classroom Connect’s AmazonQuest, which will run from September 24 to October 26, will let students direct an investigation of the Amazon via the internet while examining issues that face the region, including mining and endangered species. Lead by a world-renowned adventured, an expedition team will explore the Amazon River and introduce the audience to a variety of flora and fauna, rare and endangered animals, deforestation, and Amazonian people. Classroom Connect’s The Quest Channel, an adventure learning program, provides access two to live Quests a year, as well as previous Quests including Africa, Asia, and Australia. Also, Classroom Connect is working with Wireless Generation Inc. to investigate the use of handheld applications by teachers to conduct ongoing student assessment in the classroom. http://www.classroom.com

Centrinity Inc. announced the release of FirstClass 6.0 Education Edition, the latest version of the company’s unified communications and collaborative groupware technology that lets users communicate more efficiently. The enhancements include new editor tools and security upgrades so educators can create better curriculum material and share sensitive information with staff and parents through secure socket layer encryption. With this newest version, educators can send messages from whatever communication device they have on hand, whether it’s a telephone, a computer, or cell phone. Also, the web interface now resembles the look and feel of the company’s desktop software for consistency. http://www.centrinity.com

A new mathematics software program for high school, called Crocodile Mathematics from Crocodile Clips, will become available at the end of 2001. Using Crocodile Mathematics, students can experiment with geometric and algebraic concepts and create visual representations of mathematical problems. Crocodile Clips has also developed a physics course of more than 100 interactive lessons for the Microsoft Encarta Class Server, a system that helps teachers manage curriculum, lesson plans, content, assignments, and assessment electronically. http://www.crocodile-clips.com

Electronics for Imaging announced the eBeam digital whiteboard solution, a portable electronic whiteboard appliance that captures meeting notes and diagrams as they are created on whiteboards and sends the data to a connected PC or Mac, where the information can be saved, printed, eMailed, or broadcasted over the internet in real time. eBeam has an ImagePort printer interface so users can send their whiteboard notes and drawings directly to their printer without a computer. The ImagePort also can beam the whiteboard data instantly via infrared technology to handheld computers running on the Palm operating system. With the eBeam and ImagePort solution, students with Palm-powered handhelds can have the notes from the board beamed to their handheld at the end of class. When students synch with a desktop, they can edit the notes and save the information in a variety of formats. http://www.efi.com

To help school districts struggling to fill technical support positions, Gateway Inc. has launched the Gateway TechSource, a new service program that provides support and remote monitoring and resolution for all computers, including PCs and Macs. Using Gateway Country stores located across the country as a resource center, Gateway will offer school districts personalized service from a dedicated team of locally-based technology experts. Local teams will conduct on-site evaluations, technology audits, and long-range planning, while remotely based representatives will provide round-the-clock technical and basic how-to support over the phone or via the web. http://www.gateway.com

goReader Inc. plans to integrate its goReader device with Texas Instruments’ new TI-Navigator classroom learning system, extending the uses of the goReader platform and expanding the range of computing devices available on the TI-Navigator wireless system. With goReader, students will be able to access their textbooks and supplementary materials electronically. Teachers can customize content and testing for each student, while establishing an interactive learning environment that ensures that every student participates. The goReader device features either a 10.4-inch or 12.1-inch, high-resolution screen and offers navigation and feature operation such as multicolor highlighting, note-taking, and bookmarking. The goReader holds more than a year’s worth of textbooks and can accurately display images, graphs, tables, and formulas. Students can also use it for internet browsing, sending eMail, word processing, and creating spreadsheets. http://www.goreader.com

Hewlett-Packard Co. announced the HP Wireless Mobile Classroom, a self-contained unit that houses 30 HP Omnibook notebook PCs, an all-in-one printer, scanner, copier, and fax, and a digital camera. It includes a motorized cart from Wireless Information Networks, which provides the wireless infrastructure and allows the mobile unit to recharge and be used in one or more classrooms. It also includes NetSchools Corp.’s Orion service, which provides content and teacher curriculum management tools, and Mindsurf Networks’ Discourse Teaching Suite, which lets teachers track student participation and incorporate the internet into lesson plans. HP also is giving a number of grants to higher-education institutions to help prepare new teachers and to help minority students pursue engineering and computer science degrees. http://www.hp.com http://www.netschools.com http://www.mindsurfnetworks.com

The Center for Highly Interactive Computing in Education (Hi-CE) at the University of Michigan announced that the suite of educational applications it developed for the Palm operating system, dubbed the “Cool Dozen”, is now available for downloading. The free software allows K-12 students and teachers to write compositions, sketch or manipulate images, create timelines and familiy histories, graph equations, and print directly from their PDAs. “Learning and teaching in K-12 [schools] will be revolutionized through the use of low-cost, palm-sized personal computing devices coupled with innovative software and inquiry-driven curriculum,” said Elliot Soloway, professor of engineering at the University of Michigan. “Offering the software free of charge will catalyze the use of PDA technology in education, and the ‘Cool Dozen’ will give students a new generation of truly useful learning tools.” http://www.hi-ce.org/palms

High school students can get help with their math homework using Hotmath.com, a new web-based service offered by Hotmath Inc. that shows step-by-step solutions to math problems found in every leading algebra, geometry, pre-calculus, and calculus textbook. This service is free to use between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and is available by paid subscription after hours. In addition to the solutions, Hotmath.com offers hints, Socratic questions, and graphs. http://www.hotmath.com

HowStuffWorks Inc., which launched HowStuffWorks Express magazine for teachers and students last year, has a new program, called Free to Schools, that allows teachers to receive free copies of the magazine for their classrooms. The Free to Schools program provides one package of 60 copies per school (two classroom sets) in the United States. Schools also may purchase additional copies at a substantial discount. The magazine includes regular features such as “Toy Autopsy,” in which a popular toy is dissected and explained, “ExpressQuest,” a self-directed scavenger hunt on the internet, and “Extraordinary People,” which profiles remarkable individuals in science and technology. http://www.express.howstuffworks.com

Inspiration Software now offers a training CD, Exploring Kidspiration, to help teachers successfully integrate Kidspiration and visual learning into the curriculum. Kidspiration was designed to help K-3 students build strong thinking skills with visual learning. The hour-long, step-by-step tutorial guides educators through Kidspiration at their own pace and includes details on how to tailor the software to meet the needs of students. Exploring Kidspiration runs on a Mac or PC and retails for $24.95. http://www.inspiration.com

Representatives from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and Educational Support System (ESS) presented the Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology (CARET), a three-year project funded by a $1.05 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. CARET is a reliable, accurate web database that translates research studies—addressing critical questions facing teachers, administrators, and policy makers—into user-friendly language that can be applied to school planning decisions. The CARET web site was developed by the Sacramento County Office of Education. It allows users to locate studies in several ways, including keyword search or by signing up for eMail notification. http://www.iste.org http://www.edsupportsystems.com

JonesKnowledge.com, a company that develops and deploys online learning solutions, is offering a discount to secondary schools for its e-global library. This full-service virtual library, created specifically for online learners, begins at $3,000 per year for a school’s entire student body. “Our library was originally created for universities, but we have had so much interest expressed by secondary school library media specials that we decided to make it available to them at an introductory price,” said Kim Dority, vice president of e-global library. The virtual library features online tutorials on researching, more than 65 topical research guides, links to about 3,000 content-rich web sites, a government resource section, and more. http://www.jonesknowledge.com

KidzMouse Inc., a developer of computer peripherals for educational use, debuted KidzMouse: The Kid-Friendly Computer Mouse. KidzMouse comes in three designs—MollyMouse, BenjiBee, and CoolBug—and helps make computers more accessible and enjoyable for young users. The KidzMouse is roughly half the size of a conventional mouse, it has a rounded shape, and the traditional buttons are replaced by a squeezeable animal head that covers the front one-third of the device. “Standard mice force a child to ‘tap,’ which is a very difficult motion for children with developing motor skills. Squeezing is a much more natural and comfortable gesture for children,” said Susan Giles, CEO and founder of KidzMouse. http://www.kidzmouse.com

Lightspan introduced the latest version of its Lightspan Network, a commercial-free internet solution which now features interactive learning activities tied to state K-8 standards and school curriculum, a lesson plan builder, and a messaging center. The Lightspan Network can be customized to each person’s needs, whether they are a teacher, student, or parent. The network also features two new add-on content modules: The Lightspan Reading Center and The Lightspan Assessment Center. http://www.lightspan.com

Microsoft Corp. announced the availability of the Microsoft Zone Integration Server Toolkit 2.0, a free set of tools to help K-12 administrators and IT professionals in schools use data to make better decisions. Considered “brokers” between various software applications, Zone Integration Servers (ZIS) make up a major component of the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF), a series of software standards that enable school administrative systems to share data seamlessly. A ZIS eliminates redundant data entry in diverse school administration systems, streamlining organizational duties for both IT and clerical staff. Built on the Microsoft BizTalk Server 2000, an enterprise application integration tool, and using Microsoft .NET technology, the ZIS Toolkit will provide developers—from commercial vendors to school districts and educational service centers—with the tools and documentation needed to build a ZIS. The ZIS Toolkit contains evaluation copies of the Windows 2000 Server, Microsoft SQL Server 2000, Microsoft BizTalk Server 2000, and Microsoft Visio 2000 drawing and diagramming software. Also included are a resource CD with a tutorial; a live demonstration of interoperability using a BizTalk and ZIS interaction; a series of white papers documenting the benefits to various audiences; and a program that installs the SIF backbone and configures the platform components. http://www.microsoft.com/education

National Semiconductor announced that Loogootee High School of Loogootee, Ind., won its ThinClient@School contest that rewards K-12 schools for creative deployment of thin-client technology. More than 100 schools from across the country entered the contest, which was co-sponsored by Wyse Technology and Citrix Systems. Applicants submitted a comprehensive deployment plan to meet the curriculum needs of teachers, students, and the community in hopes of winning a ready-to-deploy thin-client package that includes hardware, software, installation, and training. Loogootee High School proposed using the thin-client technology to improve its students’ career skills and to build a Career Futures eCenter to benefit students, educators, and the community. According to the high school, each student will be required to use the center and its resources to make informed career and continuing education decisions. http://www.national.com/education

Palm Inc. is giving away $2.3 million worth of Palm handheld units to 87 classrooms and nine research hubs in hopes of discovering how handheld computers affect teaching and learning. SRI International’s Center for Technology in Learning, of Menlo Park Calif., will independently research and evaluate the learning uses, experiences, and effectiveness of the Palms in schools. The classroom grants are split between urban, rural, and suburban K-12 schools, both public and private. Students will use the Palms to read eBooks, manage fitness portfolios, conduct scientific experiments, and more. Palm said it is positioning itself to be a leader in the classroom with its new wireless capability and a postage-sized expansion slot that can be used for more memory or programs such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, music collections, and eventually eTextbooks. Palm already offers more than 2,000 fiction and nonfiction eBooks after acquiring peanutpress.com in March. http://www.palm.com

Riverdeep Interactive Learning announced learningneeds.com, a one-stop-shop for educational products and services for children with special needs. Dedicated to ensuring that all children have they tools they need to thrive, learningneeds.com was initiated by Riverdeep and sponsored by industry leaders such as Microsoft and IBM. The search engine on learningneeds.com pinpoints an individual’s needs and identifies the most appropriate products. The site features products from leading special-needs companies, such as AbleNet, Apple, Attainment, Crick Software, Edmark, and Freedom Scientific. http://www.learningneeds.com

The STAR Early Literacy diagnostic assessment software, from Renaissance Learning Inc., is ready to ship. This software uses multimedia and computer-adaptive technologies to assess phonemic awareness and other key early literacy skills of pre-K-3 students quickly and monitor their ongoing development continually. http://www.renlearn.com

MyLibrary, from Scholastic Inc., is a new service that lets librarians electronically match their school’s library with the book and software titles for Scholastic Reading Counts!, the company’s reading motivation and management system, which is used to engage and encourage K-12 students to read more books. With MyLibrary, librarians can analyze their existing book collections easily, so they can make informed decisions when selecting additional literature and other resources. The new service is available on a per-use basis, so users pay for reports only when they need them. A one-time usage price is $99. Scholastic also released a new version of Scholastic Reading Counts! at NECC. The 2.0 version lets educators select individual reading levels and point values for books to meet the needs of particular students. http://www.scholastic.com

The SMARTer Kids Foundation has selected nine schools to participate in its 2001 to 2003 Connections program, which places interactive whiteboard technology in schools and trains teachers how to integrate it into the curriculum. Throughout the program, participating teachers, who teach fifth and sixth grade, will develop a support network and create opportunities for ongoing student interaction. All Connections schools will receive a SMART Board, a floor stand, SMART board software, and a projector. http://www.smarterkids.org

The Sun Ray Implementation Kit for Education, from Sun Microsystems, provides schools with a tested package to give IT professionals the tools they need to deploy centrally-managed Sun Ray appliances and Sun servers quickly and easily. The kit includes a five-step installation guide; a customized, kid-friendly user desktop; the Solaris 8 operating environment; commonly used, pre-tested plug-ins; Netscape multimedia browser; and StarOffice productivity suite. http://www.sun.com/sunray/schools

SurfControl launched Cyber Patrol 6.0, an internet filtering, reporting, and monitoring solution that addresses traditional school internet safety concerns as well as network management issues, such as preserving network bandwidth for educational purposes. According to SurfControl, seven out of 10 schools say bandwidth management has become a critical technology problem. The latest verison of Cyber Patrol lets schools customize more than 35 categories of content to the needs of a particular grade, class, or user. In addition, for the first time Cyber Patrol can be set to monitor, rather than block, web access. Educators can set rules, then set the software to recognize the rules so it will watch for infractions, rather than filtering out specific content in advance. http://www.surfcontrol.com

Fifty teachers in the United States and Canada have won TI-Navigator Col


Educators: Schools will pay for Microsoft ruling

Most educators who spoke with eSchool News the day after a June 28 appeals court ruling overturned the court-ordered breakup of software giant Microsoft Corp. said they were surprised by the ruling and saw it as a possible blow to technology choices in schools.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously overturned the breakup of Microsoft but ruled that the company did violate antitrust laws. In a rare rebuke, the appellate judges said the trial judge “seriously tainted” the case with his derogatory comments about Bill Gates and his empire.

The appeals court decision has broad implications for all segments of society, including schools, where investments in technology stand to gain or lose from the fate of the industry leader.

“Educational technology is growing geometrically. The dollars spent on technology in my district have nearly quadrupled in the past four years,” said Larry Leverett, superintendent of Plainfield Public Schools in New Jersey.

According to Leverett, the decision to support the Microsoft monopoly places education squarely in the hands of an industry ruler who will continue to manipulate price and product.

“Why is it that competition and market-driven solutions are being espoused for schools, but large trusts are permitted to prevail on the business side?” he said. “Education will pay the price for this ruling.”

Jean Olmstead, technology instructional coordinator at Indian Oasis-Baboquivari Unified School District in Arizona, also was disappointed in the ruling.

“It puts too much power in the hands of one company,” she said, adding her fear that Microsoft now will be able to force competitors like Apple, Sun, and Cisco out of business.

“Internet access will soon be limited to [Microsoft Internet] Explorer,” she said. “The possibilities for total control of the world’s computers is not that far-fetched. [The ruling] means total control of education, also.”

Both Leverett and Olmstead said they believe the current political climate influenced the ruling.

“Clearly the interests of the consumer were ignored by this ruling,” said Leverett. “I fear that this will be typical of the big business privilege during the Bush era.”

Not all educators were concerned about the ruling. Some hailed it as a victory for the compatibility of software applications that run in schools.

“In my honest opinion, [the ruling] is good for schools and the tech world because it will allow for easier applications to be developed and [allow for] standardization,” said Lorraine Smith, a librarian at St. Gabriel’s Catholic School in Austin, Texas.

“Even if Microsoft were split [into two divisions], it would still be the same company, essentially, but it would have to duplicate efforts and that would actually drive costs up,” she said.

Rich Molettiere, technology coordinator for Nebraska’s Omaha North High School, said some kind of punishment for the software giant is still possible.

“The important point to remember is that the ruling was vacated-thrown out-but [the case] will be sent to a different judge. Microsoft was still found guilty of monopolistic practices. Future remedies are still possible, as is an agreement between Microsoft and the government,” Molettiere said.

Although the U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson engaged in serious misconduct, the appeals judges said, “We agree with the District Court that the company behaved anti-competitively … and that these actions contribute to the maintenance of its monopoly power.”

The appellate court narrowed the antitrust case and sent it to a new judge to decide whether a breakup or some other penalty is warranted for Microsoft.

Microsoft’s stock shot up, as did the spirits of company executives who pressed ahead with plans for their new Windows XP operating system and internet services with a promise to continue innovation.

“Every company must have the ability to innovate and improve its products,” Gates said from the company’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters. But the world’s richest man conceded, “The legal process can be hard on anyone who goes through it.”

The Justice Department and state attorneys generals who brought the case also found victory in the conclusion that Microsoft operated an illegal monopoly. But the government and states might still appeal to the Supreme Court, try to negotiate a settlement or go back to the lower court to seek new penalties.

Political pressure mounted for the Bush administration to seek a settlement.

“This gives this administration the opportunity to settle the rest of this case so all high-tech companies can move forward,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, said it was time for the government to “get off the back” of companies like Microsoft.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a leader of the 19 states that launched the case, said his colleagues were open to a settlement if it brought “fundamental change about how Microsoft conducts itself.”

The seven appellate judges narrowed the number of antitrust violations against Microsoft, upholding Jackson’s conclusion that the company illegally dominated the market for computer operating systems.

But the judges threw out the allegation that Microsoft illegally gained a web browser monopoly, and they sent back to the lower court the question of whether Microsoft improperly bundled its Windows operating system with its web browser.

The appellate judges saved their wrath for Jackson, citing his comments as the reason they vacated his order breaking up Microsoft. Before he ruled, Jackson gave interviews in which he likened Gates to Napoleon and Microsoft to a murderous street gang.

The judge’s remarks “would give a reasonable, informed observer cause to question his impartiality in ordering the company split in two,” the appeals court said.

“Although we find no evidence of actual bias, we hold that the actions of the trial judge seriously tainted the proceedings before the District Court and called into question the integrity of the judicial process,” the court added in an unusually harsh criticism of a fellow jurist.

Former federal prosecutor Lawrence Barcella said the removal of Jackson from the case was extraordinary. “That is a rare, rare public rebuke,” he said.

Jackson did not return telephone messages to his office seeking comment.

A new judge will be assigned to the case. The appellate court said the new judge must reconsider whether a breakup is warranted given the narrowing of the findings. “On remand, the district court must reconsider whether the use of the structural remedy of divestiture is appropriate,” the judges said.

In asking the lower court to reconsider the issue of whether Microsoft’s decision to bundle Windows and its web browser, the appeals judges said they were concerned about stifling innovation.

Gates said the ruling sets a high bar for the government when it seeks in the future to block features from being included in software products.

Analyst Neil McDonald of Gartner Group, a high-tech consulting firm, said the decision could embolden Microsoft to proceed with bundling new products in its Windows XP operating system and its .NET suite of internet products. The attorney generals are already studying those plans.

The case “has not had a significant effect on Microsoft’s business strategy,” McDonald said. “The bundling and tying of new products was continuing.”

The case was brought against Microsoft by the Clinton administration. During the presidential campaign, Bush expressed hope that any settlement “won’t ruin this company because this company has been a very interesting innovator.”

Bush was mum on the June 28 ruling, and his Justice Department gave no hint of its plans. “This is a significant victory,” Attorney General John Ashcroft said, praising the career lawyers who worked the case.

Charles James, the Justice Department’s new antitrust chief, said the key to the ruling was that the judges agreed that Microsoft has monopoly power and acted unlawfully to preserve it.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he didn’t know whether the Justice Department and the states would stick together as the case proceeds. “I am extremely hopeful that our team will remain intact,” he said.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer opposed making concessions to Microsoft. “There is nothing in this opinion that would justify a revised perspective on this litigation,” he said.

Jackson ruled that Microsoft illegally thwarted competitors and violated antitrust laws. In June 2000, he ordered that Microsoft be split into two separate companies as punishment to ensure the company couldn’t continue its anti-competitive practices.

Microsoft appealed, honing in on the comments Jackson made to reporters in interviews before he ordered the breakup.


Microsoft Corp.

U.S. Department of Justice

U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia


Maryland governor signs repeal of school cell phone ban

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening has approved repealing a ban on bringing cellular phones and pagers to school in 16 of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions. The ban will remain in place in Baltimore city and Baltimore, Caroline, Dorchester, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester counties.

Local school officials from other counties will work with the state Department of Education to develop their own policies.

The ban initially was intended to head off drug crimes and distraction in schools. But Ron Peiffer, a state Department of Education spokesman, said the state school board supported repealing the ban because many parents want their children to carry cellular phones for their own safety.

The prohibition, which applied to other forms of wireless technology, also prevented teachers and students from using some cutting-edge equipment in classrooms, Peiffer said.

“I think these other things have now outweighed the concerns about it,” Peiffer said. “Locally, if people still see the potential for problems, they can close it down.”


Mississippi’s effort to put computers in classrooms needs more money

Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s effort to put a computer in every public classroom in the state by late 2002 is on track, but more money is needed to finish the project, a state official says.

“Right now, we have an immediate need of $2 million to fund the remainder of the 6,300 computers which have to be installed by the first of the school year,” said Michael Boyd, policy and planning director for Musgrove.

Boyd said a recent survey of 30,000 classrooms statewide showed that only 12,602 did not have internet accessible computers.

The $28 million total project is the largest public-private partnership in the nation, Musgrove said in May. Musgrove and the leader of Entergy Mississippi traveled the state in a bid to raise the additional $2 million from private donors. About $4 million has been raised already.

Blake Wilson, president of the Mississippi Economic Council, said communities are getting on board with the project because they can see where their money is going.

“Every dollar raised–100 percent–goes to the purchase of the computers and the training of teachers to use them,” Wilson said. “This is not just to put computers in the corner of the classroom to collect dust.”


“Cyber Newseum” teaches kids to think critically about the news

The Cyber Newseum was created by the Newseum, an interactive museum located in Arlington, Va., that takes visitors behind the scenes to see and experience how and why news is made. The Cyber Newseum highlights several of the museum’s exhibitions online, showing what it’s like to be on the front lines and in the trenches reporting on conflicts that affect the fates of nations, cultures, and human lives. The “War Stories” exhibit demonstrates what it’s like to a war correspondent, with interview clips from correspondents from World War II, the Korean conflict, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and other international conflicts. This history of war reporting includes first-hand stories told by the men and women who have gone to battle with pens and cameras. “Holocaust, the Untold Story” examines the role of the press during World War II. The exhibit asks whether a more aggressive press during that conflict might have saved lives. It dispels the myth that the Holocaust was a secret and explores the reasons why newspapers downplayed the horrifying reports from Europe. “Capture the Moment: Pulitzer Prize-winning Photographs” displays the images that have touched the American consciousness over the years. The exhibit displays every Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph since 1941–the first year a photograph was eligible for the award–to the present day. The site’s Shockwave version includes accompanying narration by the actual photographers who have won journalism’s most prestigious award. This is a great resource to get kids thinking critically about what they see and hear reported in the news.



Look for American history “Within these Walls”

This web site from the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History follows the inhabitants of a single house in Massachusetts, over the course of 200 years. The site runs in correlation with the museum’s “Within these Walls” exhibition, in which a real two-and-a-half story house was moved from Massachusetts to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and is now located on the museum’s second floor. Visitors to the web site–and the exhibit–are invited to discover the stories of five families who lived in the house from the 1760s to the 1940s and made history in their kitchens and parlors through everyday choices and personal acts of courage and sacrifice. Students learn how their lives reflected the great changes and events in American history, from colonial times, the American Revolution, slavery, and abolition to immigration, industrialization, and World War II. Virtual visitors are invited to look inside the house to find original architectural details, as well as furnishings that suggest how some of the rooms might have been used. Artifacts from the different time periods–such as an 18th-century doll, a rare Revolutionary War coat, an antislavery almanac, and World War II posters–all suggest what the daily lives of the home’s inhabitants may have been like. This easy-to-use, glossy site, which requires the Flash plug-in, provides kids and history teachers with a fascinating visual glimpse into different time periods throughout American history.