Solve computer-support problems at “” is an operation started by several computer science students seeking their bachelor of science degrees at Southwest Texas State University, though is not associated with the Texas State University system. The group’s mission is to provide the most comprehensive way for PC users to keep their computers clean, healthy, and error-free, as well as to provide useful tools and tutorials to maximize performance and features. The web site features product updates, technical support, a “security zone” page, a virus warning center, and a skills-improvement page. Right now, anyone running Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, or Millennium Edition can benefit from using ComUSolv’s services, but the group also plans to set up a Mac solutions center in the future. “ was a vision that grew out of discontent with large corporate technical support centers,” the site’s founders say. “Many people complained about not getting the help they needed to fix many of Windows’ problems.”


For tech-savvy teachers, a “New Curriculum” calls

The recently launched web site, The New Curriculum, is specifically devoted to teachers who use technology in their classrooms. The site was started in the spring of 2001 by John Raymond. In its current form, The New Curriculum has two branches: a web presence designed to help teachers integrate technology into their classes, and an educational technology consulting firm specializing in technology integration workshops. What sets the web site apart, according to Raymond, is its commentary and advice columns and its emphasis on quality links over mere quantity. Site offerings include original columns by Raymond and his team of writers, as well as carefully evaluated links to new ed-tech resources, forums, conference sites, lesson banks, and useful company web sites. The New Curriculum offers free membership to teachers of all subjects and levels. Membership entitles teachers to contribute to the ChalkBoard, a front-page section devoted to publishing the insights and experiences of teachers as they pioneer ahead into technology integration.


“NASA Connect” helps kids learn practical applications of science

NASA Connect is a free, annual series of integrated math, science, and technology instructional distance learning programs for students in grades 5-8. Each program has three components: (1) a 30-minute television broadcast, which can be viewed live or taped for later use; (2) an interactive web activity, which gives educators an opportunity to use technology in the classroom setting; and (3) a lesson guide describing a hands-on activity. These three components are designed as an integrated instructional package. Teachers who register on the NASA Connect web site will receive, via eMail, the date of upcoming shows, a show summary, and a PDF version of the lesson guide. The lessons seek to establish a connection between the math, science, and technology concepts taught in the classroom and those used every day by NASA researchers. The 2001-2002 series uses proportional reasoning as the “integrative thread” that connects the topics of each program.


“Book Adventure” makes reading fun for students

Attention all readers: Book Adventure is a free online reading incentive program that uses technology and incentives to motivate kids in grades K-8 to read. Since the site’s creation in 1999, Book Adventure has allowed children to create personalized book lists from more than 5,500 titles, take quizzes on the books on their lists, and earn prizes for reading. As a means of improving reading comprehension, children receive points for the number of questions they answer correctly in the book quizzes. Created by the Sylvan Learning Foundation, the site reportedly is used by more than 76,000 classrooms as a reading resource. Baltimore’s Joppa View Elementary has had great success so far with the Book Adventure program. To reward kids for their reading successes, school officials decided to sponsor special milestone events, such as “Crazy Hat Day,” “No Homework Day,” “Ice Cream Sundae Day,” and “Movie and Popcorn Day,” encouraging kids to meet their reading goals.


“” offers timely resources for discussing a difficult issue

Most Americans spent September 11 glued to their television sets, trying to come to terms with the horrific terrorist attacks in which four commercial airliners were hijacked and effectively turned into guided missiles, leveling both of New York’s World Trade Center towers and a large section of the Pentagon. In the weeks after the tragedy, parents and educators are still faced with the difficult task of explaining to their children why and how these events could have happened on American soil. There are a number of good internet resources for educators who wish to address this complex issue in class. Most notable is the Cable News Network’s student-focused site, The site provides news, discussion, lesson plans, and activities related to current events, and it archives all resource materials for educators to use at their convenience. By the afternoon of September 11, had published a lesson plan that teachers can use to help students discuss their thoughts and emotions about the terrorist attack. Other lesson plans in the days following the tragedy encouraged students to examine the role of the National Security Council and various relief organizations in dealing with the crisis.


Add firepower to your school communications with ‘pocket rockets’

“Pocket rockets,” those personal digital assistants (PDAs) that put more communications firepower in the palm of your hand than NASA had to launch its early space missions, represent a new communications frontier for school leaders.

While educators who fit the marketing profile of “early adopters” are already using handheld computers to manage their time and ease the back strain caused by carrying bulging leather planners, most still haven’t hopped on board the wireless revolution.

It’s time for a second look. With capabilities expanding and prices dropping, pen-entry handheld devices have enormous public relations potential.

“For marketers, the wireless and mobile use of PDAs presents an opportunity to reach consumers out in the world on a device that’s very personal,” writes Deborah Kong in “A Handful of Marketing Opportunities” for WirelessAdWatch.

Cybiko, for example, is now marketing a wireless handheld device for teens that offers everything from traditional calendar and contact organizers to an MP3 player, Spanish-English dictionary, and a multilingual phrase book–all for just $99.

Packed with more than 10 software products–including free games that can be downloaded from the company’s web site–and fully upgradable, the Cybiko Xtreme costs less than most teens’ tennis shoes, school ensembles, and television sets.

With no airtime fees, teens can send and receive pictures, music, text files (homework, anyone?), and eMails and can dive into chat rooms–making the much-heralded “digital divide” seem more a matter of priorities than economics for most families, community groups, and school systems.

And, while Palm Pilots and Handspring Visors still own the greatest market share, Casio, Hewlett-Packard, Asky, Sony, and Compaq offer models ranging in price from about $130 to more than $500–still pricey for a planner, but inexpensive for the equivalent of a wireless, mobile personal computer.

Unlike earlier versions, these new models allow users to do more than one thing at a time, thanks to improved operating software developed by Microsoft. Now you can listen to your favorite MP3s or view video clips from school events while charting out your strategic plan or developing the high school’s new block schedule.

School districts in Texas are already using handheld computers to take attendance, record grades, exchange business cards, organize lesson plans, check eMail, and communicate with parents.

Using PDA software currently on the market, educators can keep track of coursework, grades, class details, lesson plans, parent contacts, notes, and exam schedules for up to 15 classes at a time.

And, while some recruiters still go to college fairs armed with logo-emblazoned highlighters, tote bags, and mouse pads, tech-savvy school districts are offering handhelds and laptops along with signing bonuses and other incentives.

Expansion slots and add-on devices on newer models mean users can turn their PDA into a digital phone, video game player, or digital camera. By signing up with Omnisky, GoAmerica, Palm.Net, Yada Yada, or some other wireless service, educators can access the web, download applications, and use eMail–anywhere, anytime.

For another $100, administrators, staff developers, and other meeting warriors who are tired of lugging their laptops around but hate tapping in notes with a stylus can purchase a folding, pocket-sized keyboard that attaches to most handheld computers.

This means that from as little as $200 to $800, educators and students can have access to a fully-functioning personal computer with built-in internet capabilities.

Not only is this great news for those who confront the digital divide on a daily basis, it also means PDAs are beginning to reach a more mainstream market–putting a new and affordable channel of communication with parents literally in the palm of the hand.

Imagine attending a championship football game or Odyssey of the Mind tournament and being able to eMail event photos to PTA leaders and your school web site–all before you leave the auditorium. Or, what about using a PDA to link homeschoolers with their traditional school counterparts?

Think about the efficiencies that could occur when teachers can use their PDAs to take attendance and then send it electronically to school and district offices.

Then take it a step further, and think about the implications of eMailing parents at their homes, places of work, or digital pagers to let them know their son or daughter performed well on an exam, was selected for a school honor, or did (or didn’t) show up for class.

Right now, the wireless revolution is more hype than reality, but it is coming nonetheless. School leaders need to get in the game and find out how to use these new technologies to manage their relationships with parents, teachers, and other community stakeholders. PDAs and other new technologies are quickly becoming part of the mainstream. And, as Cybiko’s marketing success already shows, the Net Generation–and our future school parents–will be fully wired.