New ISTE resource helps schools train teachers to use technology

A new professional development book aimed at helping school and university leaders train K-12 teachers how to integrate technology into their instruction is now available from the International Society for Technology In Education (ISTE).

The group that in June 2000 published the first set of comprehensive standards for what teachers should know about technology: the “National Educational Technology Standards” (NETS) for Teachers. ISTE now offers “Preparing Teachers to Use Technology,” which provides resources for preservice and in-service teacher professional development across all grade levels and content areas.

According to Peggy Kelly, the book’s editor, cutbacks in education funding have created a huge demand for effective teacher training resources.

“Teachers today often face classrooms of students more technologically literate than they are,” she notes. “Preparing Teachers to Use Technology provides essential teacher training information about integrating technology into a classroom setting using effective teaching practices.”

She added: “This book provides teacher educators and staff developers with the skills and information needed to prepare productive, 21st-century teachers.”

The new book also can help schools and universities meet new guidelines for teacher professional development as mandated by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The nearly 400-page book, which ISTE says is “the first to comprehensively outline models for standards-based integration of technology for teacher education,” was created by consensus.

Writing teams of teachers and teacher educators from around the country collaborated to develop teacher preparation standards, assessments, and conditions that facilitate the use of technology to support student learning.

Preparing Teachers to Use Technology includes:

  • Thirty-two demonstration lessons covering math, science, social studies, and language arts in early childhood, elementary, middle school, and secondary programs;

  • Eight demonstration lessons for foundations courses; and

  • Separate chapters devoted to model strategies, assessment, student teaching and internship programs, first-year teaching, and staff development.

The book is divided into three broad areas:

Section 1, “Creating a Foundation for Technology Use,” describes the formation of ISTE’s NETS project, sets the stage for technology use by educators, and describes model strategies for integrating technology into instruction.

Section 2, “Integrating Technology in Professional Preparation,” addresses topics such as equitable access to technology in and out of school; the legal, moral, and ethical issues involved in classroom technology use; and grouping students for learning.

Section 2 also presents technology-rich demonstration lessons for various subjects—such as math, science, English, and social studies—for early childhood education programs, elementary school students, middle schoolers, and high schoolers.

Finally, Section 3, “Integrating Technology in the Classroom,” examines technology integration within student teaching, professional development, and internship programs, as well as assessing the technology preparation of teachers.

The book is a companion to the ISTE publication NETS for Students: “Connecting Curriculum and Technology.”

But whereas “Connecting Curriculum and Technology” is a guide to implementing ISTE’s student technology standards, “Preparing Teachers to Use Technology” helps schools implement the group’s teacher standards.

“Preparing Teachers to Use Technology” was developed with funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology grant program.

The Public Broadcasting Service also provided support for the project.

You can get more information about “Preparing Teachers to Use Technology,” including a 17-page excerpt, the table of contents, and ordering information, at the web-site address below. The price for a single copy is $49.95 for non-members and $44.95 for ISTE members. Special bulk pricing is also available.

Links:

NETS for Teachers: Preparing Teachers to Use Technology
http://www.iste.org/netst

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Best Practice: Texas district’s eBook collection is worth checking out

An unusual new library at a Houston-area school district allows teachers and students to access hundreds of titles from anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Aldine Independent School District’s electronic book (eBook) library opened its virtual “doors” for lending at the close of the 2000-2001 school year, and school officials say the level of use has grown as more titles have been added to the collection.

Aldine’s eBook library currently consists of 375 titles—both fiction and nonfiction—published in electronic format.

“Some titles are for professional use, [but] most are for student use,” said Christine Van Hamersveld, the district’s program director for library media services.

Currently, the majority of titles are available for secondary students in grades seven to 12, but there are also titles for elementary-aged children. The program is open to all students, employees, or parents in the district.

eBooks are essentially complete books put into electronic format.

“If you were to compare the eBook collection to a print collection, it includes everything a standard school library print collection would have,” Van Hamersveld said. That includes picture books, fiction, nonfiction, reference books, and professional titles.

The benefits of accessing books online rather than checking them out physically are numerous, she explained. An eBook is searchable by keyword, and a dictionary is built into the eBook reader software to help with unfamiliar words.

In addition, eBooks are checked in and out automatically, so no extra staffing is required.

“eBooks give students with home computers access to reference materials and curriculum-related materials without requiring them to leave home,” said Van Hamersveld. And, because students can get the same texts at home on the internet, they don’t have to lug heavy books home on their backs.

The eBook titles Aldine currently has were purchased during the previous school year, after a group of Aldine librarians submitted recommendations from the list of available titles. Van Hamersveld compiled these recommendations, added her input, and put together the current list based on the district’s curriculum and the professional needs of the Aldine employees.

There are currently no textbooks on the list, because the district’s library media services department is not in charge of textbook purchases.

“I am aware that various publishers offer textbooks in eBook format,” said Van Hamersveld. “However, this type of purchase would not come under the Aldine Library Media Services’ umbrella, based on our selection policy.”

eBooks often are sold to schools as proprietary software that only works with one of the portable, paperback-sized eBook readers on the market, such as the Gemstar eBook reader or the Rocket eBook.

But eBooks also can be purchased off the internet and downloaded to a library’s online collection for viewing right on a computer screen or handheld device, and that’s the option Aldine officials have chosen. They purchase eBook texts from netLibrary, a division of Online Computer Library Center Inc. of Dublin, Ohio.

At Aldine, the existing computer equipment has been sufficient to support the new eBook library. “We did not need to add any hardware,” said Van Hamersveld. All Aldine computers are networked and have internet access.

First-time users of the eBook library just download the free netLibrary eBook reader software when they set up an account, which enables them to view the titles from any internet-connected machine, whether at home or school. The only “library card” users need is a valid password.

NetLibrary is one of several companies that work out deals with traditional book publishers to convert their titles to electronic format and then lease these titles on the web. Traditionally, companies that want to put material online have met with resistance from publishing houses, which fear the internet will support copyright infringement and encourage piracy of copyrighted works.

The eBook library operates almost exactly like a traditional library in terms of copyright protection regulations, Van Hamersveld told the Houston Chronicle.

“It is a single-user [service], just like if you were to go to the library and check out a book,” she said. “One person checks out that book, and until that book is checked back in no one else can access it. That makes the issues of copyright and profit margins … a little easier to swallow for the publishers.”

Training is an ongoing process at Aldine, as library media staff continue to make more people aware of the resource and to increase overall use of the eBook library, explained Van Hamersveld.

“We offer training at the district level, the campus level, and our librarians work with individual students and teachers whenever the opportunity arises,” she said

Though the procedure used to access the eBook collection is not difficult to learn, library officials believe formal training is the best way to ensure that everyone knows how to search the collection and use an individual eBook.

“Students and teachers who have used the eBook library are very excited about this addition to our district library program,” Van Hamersveld said. “As they become more comfortable with electronic resources in general, usage of our eBook collection will increase.”

Links:

Aldine Independent School District
http://www.aldine.k12.tx.us

netLibrary
http://www.netlibrary.com

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eSN Exclusive: Report cites possible religious bias in school web filters

A report released Feb. 25 by the Responsible Netizen Project of the University of Oregon’s Center for Advanced Technology in Education raises questions about the link between conservative religious organizations and several internet filtering solutions, including three used widely in public schools.

The report, titled “Filtering Software: The Religious Connection,” examines eight companies’ relationships with conservative Christian organizations. According to the report, three companies with a significant school presence—N2H2 Inc. of Seattle, Symantec Corp. of Cupertino, Calif., and 8e6 Technologies Inc. of Orange, Calif.—also market their products to conservative religious internet service providers (ISPs), while the other five companies have expressed conservative religious philosophies.

Of these latter five, four have begun targeting the school market in response to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires schools to install a “technology protection measure” to help shield students from online material that is harmful to minors.

Based on these connections—and on the companies’ own descriptions of the categories their products are designed to block—the university’s report surmises that conservative biases might exist in the way these companies categorize web sites when putting together their “block” lists. It further implies that at least one company, N2H2, has sought to downplay its connection to the religious right.

“The existence of these relationships … raises the concern that the filtering products used in schools are inappropriately preventing students from accessing certain materials based on religious or other inappropriate bias,” the report says. “This situation raises concerns related to students’ constitutionally protected rights of access to information and excessive entanglement of religion with schools.”

N2H2 spokesman David Burt rejected the notion that a conservative or religious bias might exist in his company’s filtering service. He also said there is no affiliation whatsoever between his company and any religious organizations, “outside of some of our customer base.”

“We try very hard not to be biased—we don’t have social or political categories on our list, as other companies do,” Burt said. “The Mormon Church is a customer of ours, yes, but it is absurd to say that … we reflect [its] views, because we have customers from all across the political and religious spectrum.”

Eric Lundbohm, director of marketing for 8e6 Technologies, also defended his company’s filtering service against suggestions of bias.

“Our success in the marketplace depends on our ability to [categorize web sites] accurately,” he said. “We have thousands of customers that test that [ability] every day, and in a free-market society, the [companies] that meet their customers’ needs the best will survive. If bias existed, the marketplace would weed us out. Our customers would say [our service] was not the solution they were paying us to provide.”

The report notes that such bias, if it does exist, would be impossible to prove, because the companies it examines won’t reveal their lists of web sites blocked within each category. But its theories could generate momentum for the establishment of an independent auditor to better inform schools of the companies’ filtering methods.

Religious connections

The report’s author, Nancy Willard, said the incident that sparked her investigation was the removal of a press release on the N2H2 web site announcing the sale of the company’s filtering services to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and its LDS World Millennial Star Network—shortly after she shared this information with an educators’ online discussion forum that an N2H2 executive participates in.

“I thought, ‘What is it they were trying to hide?’ That just triggered my curiosity,” Willard said.

Her investigation found that, in addition to LDS World, N2H2 provides filtering services for Christianity.com, Christian.net (http://christian-isp.com), and TheShield.org, the filtered internet service of Tennessee Temple Schools. According to her report, N2H2 also ran a Church Affiliate program in which it provided free filtering services and a referral fee to churches, in exchange for a marketing link on the church’s web site.

These conservative religious organizations “are representing to their users that [N2H2’s] service filters in accord with conservative religious values,” the report says.

N2H2’s Burt denies any suggestion that his company was trying to downplay its relationship with LDS World by removing the press release from its web site. Burt said the release was removed because it was more than two years old, which is standard practice for the company.

“You may note the release ‘N2H2 Chosen to Provide Global Filtering Service to Christianity.com’ is still on our site,” he said (http://www.n2h2.com/news/releases/10-18-00.php).

Other links between conservative Christian organizations and filtering companies cited by the report include:

  • Symantec provides its I-Gear solution to 711.Net/Global Internet Ministries (http://www.711.net), What Would Jesus View (http://wwjv.com), and FamilyClick.com, an ISP that is run by Tim Robertson, son of the Christian Coalition’s Pat Robertson. Well-known Christian activist Donna Rice Hughes is a spokeswoman for the company.

  • 8e6 Technologies (formerly Log-On Data Corp.) “appears to have been started in collaboration with the American Family Association, a conservative religious organization,” the report says. It quotes this line from the group’s web site to support its claim: “AFA teams up with Log-On Data to market X-Stop, a powerful internet pornography filter” (http://www.afa.net/hs~about.asp).

  • NETcomply, which sells St. Bernard, Symantec, and 8e6 Technologies products to schools (as well as its own filtered ISP service, called QuickComply), is run by 711.Net Inc., which also operates the Global Internet Ministries.

Willard says in her report that the first time she visited the Global Internet Ministries web site, the lead article on the site was “Have we shamed the face of Jesus? Muslims in our pulpits,” and the article drew the following conclusion: “… when we present Islam as another truth, we spit on the face of Christ and those who serve His kingdom in Islamic countries.”

  • Bsafe Online, which targets the school market with a filtered ISP service called Bsafe School, is owned by American Family Online, a subsidiary of the American Family Association (AFA). AFA “had been fighting to protect time-tested, Christian-based values for over 20 years,” according to its web site (http://afo.net/welcomeletter.htm).

    (While the home page for Bsafe Online was functioning, no other links to the site were working at press time, so eSchool News was not able to confirm the connection between Bsafe Online and AFA.)

  • S4F Technologies Inc., which targets the school market with a product called EduGuard, “appears to have started as a religious ISP, known as Family Connect,” according to the report. (eSchool News was not able to confirm this by press time.) S4F also provides filtering services to other religious ISPs, including Christian-Internet.com, the report says.

  • Internet Management Solutions Inc. has a close relationship with Bob Jones University, which sells the company’s SurfClear filtering product through its web site. A statement on the Bob Jones University web site reads, “Recently, Bob Jones University and SurfClear have released a unique web filtering system that is more conservative than the average internet filter. This version of SurfClear is available at bjup.surfclear.net.”

Listing to the right?

Willard is concerned these companies are inappropriately reflecting conservative values in the way they categorize web sites for blocking by schools. For example, several solutions include a category called “Occult,” which might include constitutionally protected information about non-traditional religions based on Native American or Eastern philosophies.

“If students are allowed to access Christian sites, which most people would argue they should be allowed to access, it is unacceptable for schools to block access to other religious sites,” she writes in the report.

As another example of conservative bias, Willard cites Symantec’s categorization of web sites under its “Sex Education” heading. The company actually differentiates between three types of sex-education sites: “Basic” sites provide elementary information about puberty and reproduction; “Advanced” sites provide medical discussions of sexually transmitted diseases and information about birth control, family planning, safe sex, and sexual abuse; and “Sexuality” sites deal with topics in human sexuality, such as “sexual technique, sexual orientation, cross-dressing, transvestites, transgenders, multiple-partner relationships, and other related issues.”

“To lump all ‘sexual orientation’ sites into one category … with other material that would clearly be inappropriate for students is unacceptable,” the report states. “If heterosexual students are allowed to access sites containing safe-sex information, then homosexual students should also be allowed to access safe-sex sites directed at their population. If African-American students or other racial minority students are allowed to access sites that address racial discrimination, gay and lesbian students should be allowed to access sites that support their efforts in addressing discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)—a national network of parents, students, and other activists working to end discrimination based on sexual orientation—posts eMail messages it receives from students and teachers on its web site, including the following message from a student using a school computer with filtered internet access: “I tried to access GLSEN’s site and the computer gives me something like ‘Cannot access www.glsen.org, category: Sex/Sexuality.'”

Willard said it’s fairly likely this student was using internet access filtered by Symantec’s I-Gear.

“Since this information was revealed, I have now obtained independent evidence that Symantec is blocking access to not only GLSEN, but also GLAAD—the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation—in the ‘Sex/Sexuality’ category along with sexual technique, multiple-partner relationships, and other similar sites,” Willard said. “The GLSEN/GLAAD blocking provides strong indication that Symantec does not have an adequate understanding of appropriate constitutional standards.”

She continued, “The fact that [Symantec has] placed this material in a category that … pretty clearly meets the definition of ‘harmful to minors’ has placed school administrators in a Catch-22 situation. If they block in accord with CIPA, they are denying students access to sites they really should be able to access. If they do not block this category, they are in violation of CIPA.”

A Symantec spokesperson avoided an eSchool News reporter’s questions about the company’s categorization of web sites, instead issuing the following generic statement:

“When initially installed, the software does not block access to any predefined content categories, until default policies are actively put in place by the administrator of the software. Furthermore, the option to unconditionally allow access to any type of content or URL [Uniform Resource Locator, or web site address] is always available, so that administrators can always override, or make exceptions for, any content classifications contained in the URL database that is supplied with the system.”

But Willard says that’s not enough.

“The processes that are used in schools to override the blocking device are generally so cumbersome that schools and teachers don’t even try,” she said.

Furthermore, students shouldn’t have to request an override to get information on a controversial topic they should legally have access to, but might be embarrassed to request, Willard said. If a student discovers that a sexual orientation web site is blocked, for example, it “places exceptional burden on the child” to have to ask his or her teacher to unblock the site.

Ted Davis, director of knowledge asset management for the Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, said his district uses Symantec’s I-Gear filter, and religious bias “has never been an issue.”

Ironically, Davis said a few users complained that the service blocked the web site of the National Rifle Association—an organization backed by conservative religious groups—within its “Weapons” category, and district officials subsequently unblocked the site.

Proprietary information

Because these companies closely guard their “block” lists and methodologies as proprietary, trade-secret information, Willard acknowledges that she has no solid evidence of any bias in their filtering. But she’d like to see that change.

Her report recommends that an independent auditing mechanism be established “to ensure that companies providing blocking products are not blocking access to material in violation of students’ constitutional rights.”

Given that schools are now required by law to implement technology protection measures to keep students from accessing pornography online, some school technology experts agree with this recommendation.

“Filtering software should be subject to the same public and expert scrutiny that textbooks and other curricular materials are, to prevent bias,” said Chris Dede, Timothy E. Wirth Professor of Learning Technologies for the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

The Children’s Online Protection Act Commission, a group formed by Congress to study children’s internet safety issues, recommended the formation of such a service in its October 2000 report to Congress, but no action was taken.

“There would have to be funding from some entity to do this,” Willard said. “I don’t know how it should be done or who should be responsible. It is simply necessary.”

George Shih, president and chief executive of 8e6 Technologies, said an independent auditing group is “a reasonable request. Something like that would help a company like us provide a better product to our customers—we’d be willing to provide our list to them.”

N2H2’s Burt said an independent auditor would “certainly [be] free to look at how we categorize sites and look at specific types of sites. I don’t think we’d supply somebody with our entire list, but we’d supply them with examples.”

When asked why his company would not provide the whole list, Burt said, “It is a proprietary list. The list is the product, and if that were made public, a competitor could [acquire it].”

Willard says she’s not completely opposed to filtering; it’s entirely appropriate for younger students, but “seeking to retain teenagers in ‘fenced play-yards’ is futile,” she writes in her report.

The report concludes, “Rather than placing primary reliance on filtering tools, schools should develop comprehensive strategies to help students learn to use the internet in a safe and responsible manner, in accord with school standards and their personal family values. Schools can reinforce the importance of using the internet in accord with personal family values by providing parents with access to their child’s internet usage records.”

Not all educators would agree this approach is adequate.

In a fitting illustration of how there is no single opinion on the topic of filtering—or even which web sites are appropriate for students to access in schools—Carolyn Worsham, director of instructional technology for the Nederland Independent School District in Texas, said she uses N2H2’s filtering service and has never noticed any bias. “I can’t argue with the philosophy that the tendency to overblock is better than the tendency to underblock,” Worsham said. “There are other ways [students] can view [controversial] material. I mean, students can go to a public library or home to access sites that may not be appropriate in schools.” __________________________________

Associate Editor Elizabeth B. Guerard and Assistant Editor Cara Branigan contributed to this report.

Links:

“Filtering Software: The Religious Connection”
http://netizen.uoregon.edu/documents/religious1.html

N2H2 Inc.
http://www.n2h2.com

Symantec Corp.
http://www.symantec.com

8e6 Technologies Inc.
http://www.8e6technologies.com

NETcomply
http://www.netcomply.com

Bsafe Online
http://www.bsafeonline.com

S4F Technologies Inc.
http://www.s4f.com

Internet Management Solutions Inc.
http://www.ims-inc.com

Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network
http://www.glsen.org

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
http://www.glaad.org

National Rifle Association
http://www.nra.org

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High-speed internet access spreading, though slowly

A study released earlier this month by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suggests that more students might have high-speed internet access in their homes this year—but not many more.

Access to high-speed, or “broadband,” internet services is expanding slowly at all levels, according to the study. Analysts who study the telecommunications industry attribute this slow growth not to the availability of broadband services, but to a lack of demand.

The report said 7 percent of U.S. households had high-speed access by the end of last June, up from 4.7 percent at the beginning of 2001 and more than triple the 1.6 percent with access in August 2000.

Overall, the nation had 9.6 million subscribers to extremely fast internet services by the end of last June, up 36 percent in the first six months of 2001. But the FCC noted that broadband subscriptions had jumped 250 percent since the agency’s previous report, issued in August 2000.

FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell said the latest report shows that broadband availability and subscribership “have enjoyed strong growth even in the categories of residential and small business customers, low-income consumers, and people within sparsely populated regions.”

But Commissioner Michael J. Copps issued a separate statement that disagreed with Powell and the report. Copps said the FCC needs more information to assess internet access, and he urged a national debate about broadband services.

“On the basis of the record before us, I am unable to determine whether the deployment of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans is, or is not, reasonable and timely,” Copps said.

The report was the third in a series required by Congress to assess whether “advanced telecommunications capability” is being made available to all Americans “in a reasonable and timely fashion.”

Advanced capability, according to the agency, is high-speed, broadband service that allows transmission of “high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video using any technology platform.”

Although broadband access is increasing, critics say there is still a substantial split between rural and urban areas, and between rich and poor households.

“Urban usage is still almost double that for rural areas,” said Tony Wilhelm, a spokesman for the Benton Foundation, which runs the educational Digital Divide Network in Washington, D.C. “There are still huge disparities.”

Customers in about 96 percent of the nation’s most wealthy ZIP codes have high-speed internet access, while the study found high-speed customers in only 59 percent of the poorest ZIP codes.

The contrast between rural and urban areas was even greater. The FCC found that 98 percent of the most densely populated ZIP codes have at least one broadband customer. In contrast, less than 40 percent of rural ZIP codes have even a single high-speed subscriber.

Telecommunications industry analysts say demand is more of a problem than access, because enough lines and equipment already have been upgraded to give more than half the country broadband service, but only a fraction of households are buying it.

“Infrastructure is increasing much faster than demand,” said John Hodulik of UBS Warburg in New York.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a longtime advocate of improved internet access, said the FCC report suggests access will continue to be uneven without a broad national policy.

“The real challenge is to put in place a broadband deployment policy that doesn’t leave rural America in the ditch,” Wyden said. “I think we have a long ways to go.”

The FCC report was released just two days after the Bush administration released a report saying that internet use is growing among the poor and minorities and in rural areas.

But critics say the administration’s report, released by the Commerce Department Feb. 5, shows the gap between technology haves and have-nots is actually widening, with only about a fourth of Americans making less than $25,000 a year using the internet, compared to nearly three-fourths of those who made more than $75,000.

Links:

FCC report
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-02-33A1.txt

Commerce Department report
http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/dn/nationonline_020502.htm

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This super NOVA site is exploding with information

NOVA Online now offers teachers quick access to more than 500 of the popular science program’s educational resources in its expanded Teachers site, which includes a searchable database of program information, activities, and other classroom tools. The ever-growing collection includes detailed content summaries for most NOVA programs since 1993, along with information on which videos are for sale and how to purchase them. It also features more than 125 printable and 100 online activities with grade-level designations in anthropology, archaeology, chemistry, earth science, forensics, health science, life science, mathematics, paleontology, physical science, and space science.

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New computer-crimes bill could boost school security

Internet cranks and hackers might think twice about targeting schools, and school administrators might receive quicker notification when service providers learn of internet threats involving schools under terms of proposed legislation discussed at a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 12.

Stiffer penalties proposed for internet wrongdoers and relief from litigation for prompt notification are the mechanisms that could increase school security, the bill’s supporters indicated. Critics of the measure said the bill could undermine the privacy rights of internet users.

The House bill intended to crack down on computer crimes would shield internet service providers from lawsuits if they share information pertaining to possible life-threatening situations with school officials or other government authorities.

The bill, which also could lead to stiffer penalties for computer hackers, has received support from administration officials and technology executives.

Microsoft lawyer Susan Kelley Koeppen, a former Justice Department prosecutor, said courts should take hackers more seriously.

“Cybercrime will never be effectively curbed if society continues to treat it merely as pranksterism,” she told lawmakers during the hearing.

The government is increasingly concerned about the well-being of government and business computer systems in the face of teen hackers and foreign threats.

“As we increase individuals’ physical safety at our airports, borders, and even sporting events, we should not forget to strengthen cybersecurity as well,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the bill’s sponsor.

The Cyber Security Enhancement Act of 2001, or H.R. 3482, would give judges greater flexibility in imposing sentences for computer crimes. Current law ties the severity of the crime to the cost of damage done and limits jail terms to 10 years.

Smith’s legislation would require judges to take other factors into account, including the sophistication of the offense, intent, and violations of the victim’s privacy.

If the criminal “knowingly causes or attempts to cause death or serious bodily injury,” the judge could impose up to a life sentence.

The Justice Department, Microsoft, and internet service providers supported the change in testimony to the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime.

John G. Malcolm, of Justice’s criminal division, described a hypothetical situation in which a hacker shut down a town’s phone service, including emergency 911 calls.

“It is easy to envision in such a situation that somebody might die or suffer serious injury as a result of this conduct,” Malcolm said. “Although the hacker might not have known that his conduct would cause death or serious bodily injury, such reckless conduct would seem to merit punishment greater than the 10 years permitted by the current statute.”

Microsoft’s Koeppen suggested that convicted hackers have their computer gear confiscated by the authorities, a practice similar to that used in drug cases.

Another portion of the bill would protect internet providers from lawsuits if, believing someone is in danger of death or serious physical injury, they give records of communications to a government entity.

Koeppen said she believes the term “government entity” could also be applied to firefighters or even school principals.

“We believe that such emergency situations will be rare, but that law enforcement personnel may not always be reachable or even the best prepared to take action,” she said.

Brad Bennett, a spokesman for Rep. Smith, confirmed that the law could recognize school administrators as acceptable government entities, “were the situation something directly related to the school”—a threat of imminent danger to students or staff members, for example.

“We’d want to be able to contact the correct authority immediately,” he said. “If there is an immediate threat to a school, then certainly time is of the essence. We’d want the people in the position to handle the situation to have the information they need.”

But Bennett said this situation is highly improbable, and a better example of a government entity that might be alerted to a cyber threat would be an agency such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Defense.

Still, the bill is encouraging to Marc Liebman, superintendent of the Marysville Joint Unified School District in California.

As superintendent of a district that has experienced a school shooting, “I will support any legislation that gives us access to information about threats made by students or others that may impact the safety of the students in our district,” he said.

Privacy advocates said the bill’s language is too broad and would encourage internet providers to hand over information too often.

“At the same time that they’re expanding the number of people that can get this information, they’re bringing down the standard in which they can get it,” said Ari Schwartz of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Schwartz dismissed the idea—mentioned by several supporters—that the information sharing would be useful to combat terrorism. Some of the suspected terrorists in the Sept. 11 attacks communicated over the internet.

It’s not as though law enforcement agencies knew about that information and wanted to get it, Schwartz said. “It was not the standards that failed us; it was the intelligence-gathering that failed us.”

Links:

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas
http://wwwa.house.gov/lamarsmith

House Subcommittee on Crime
http://www.house.gov/judiciary/crime.htm

U.S. Justice Department
http://www.usdoj.gov

Center for Democracy and Technology
http://www.cdt.org

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Supreme Court to rule on 20-year copyright extension

In a case initiated by an internet publisher, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed Feb. 19 to review whether Congress has exercised too much authority in extending copyright protection for two additional decades. The outcome could have significant implications for schools and libraries. At stake is the online availability of hundreds of thousands of books, songs, and movies.

The nonprofit publisher and other plaintiffs argue that Congress sided too heavily with writers and other creators when it passed a law in 1998 retroactively extending copyright terms by 20 years. If the extension stands, older Disney movies and other works that might have entered the public domain soon—and thus been freely and legally available over the internet or in digital libraries—will continue to receive copyright protections for at least two more decades.

Though the case isn’t limited to the online world, it could determine “if the internet really transforms the ways in which information gets to people and the things they can do with it once they have it,” said Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard Law School professor representing the plaintiffs.

For educators, the high court’s ruling could affect the availability of resources for classroom use.

“The longer it takes for works to go into the public domain, the longer it takes for [them] to be available for public use,” including education, said Miriam Nisbet, legislative counsel for the American Library Association, which filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to consider the case.

The Constitution authorizes Congress to give authors and inventors the exclusive right to their works for a “limited” time, but the length of the exclusive period has gotten lengthier as time has past.

In 1790, copyrights lasted 14 years. With the 1998 extension, the period is now 70 years after the death of the creator, if the person is known. Works owned by corporations are protected for 95 years.

The 1998 copyright changes, known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, bring U.S. rules in line with those in the European Union.

Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, which represents published book authors, said writers need to be compensated or “they will be forced to turn to other lines of work.”

But critics of the extension say the copyright clause was written into the Constitution not only to reward creators, but also to make the works available for the public to exchange and develop into new works. Repeated extensions, they say, mean copyrights aren’t truly limited.

Congress extended the term of copyright 11 times in the past century, said law professor Mark Lemley, who represents the nonprofit Internet Archive, which is trying to build a digital library.

Lemley said copies of old books, movies, and sound recordings are being lost before they can be archived electronically. He said 10,027 books were published in 1930—but as of last year, all but 174 of them were out of print.

If it weren’t for the extension, “digital archives could inexpensively make the other 9,853 books published in 1930 available to the reading public starting in 2005,” Lemley wrote. But if the law still stands, “we must continue to wait, perhaps eternally, while works disappear and opportunities vanish.”

Siva Vaidhyanathan, professor of information studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said online publishers would love to make out-of-print works they don’t own available over the internet.

But they can’t legally do so as long as Congress keeps extending copyrights.

The lead plaintiff in the case is Eric Eldred, who runs an organization called Eldritch Press that places public-domain materials online.

Other plaintiffs include a company that reprints books that have entered the public domain and a choir director who buys inexpensive sheet music in the public domain.

Lower courts ruled against them. The Bush administration, in its role as defendant of federal law, had urged the court to reject the groups’ appeal.

Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, cited a need for parity with the European Union and expressed confidence the high court will affirm “the wisdom of the Congress.”

The case is Eldred v. Ashcroft, 01-618. A decision is expected sometime this spring.

Links:

Plaintiffs’ site with court documents
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/eldredvreno/legaldocs.html

American Library Association
http://www.ala.org

Motion Picture Association of America
http://www.mpaa.org

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2002 AASA show continues low-attendance trend

Featuring the likes of country singer Dolly Parton and political satirist Mark Russell, this year’s American Association of School Administrators (AASA) conference, Feb. 15-17 in San Diego, had a definite focus on show business.

There’s no business like show business, they say. But for exhibitors at the AASA conference this year, the trade-show business seemed to be something more akin to the no-show business.

AASA’s National Conference on Education tallied the worst attendance in years. According to AASA spokeswoman Barbara Knisely, paid registrations numbered approximately 3,300. This compared to as many as 4,500 paid registrants in San Franciso in 2000.

AASA is not suffering its absentee phenomenon alone, by any means. The National School Boards Association’s Technology + Learning conference in Atlanta last November endured a severe attendance shortfall, and a superintendents’ conference produced by eSchool News immediately after the 9-11 attacks also came up light on attendees.

The phenomenon is ubiquitous and appears to be resistant to the best efforts of conference planners. AASA addressed the issue head-on in a report for its “Conference Daily”:

“Concerns over air safety and economic problems brought about by state budget crises are the major contributors to lower-than-usual attendance at national conferences.”

AASA’s report cited a USA Today poll published just before its February conference: “The survey found 44 percent of the public either ‘very afraid’ or ‘somewhat afraid’ of air travel, a negligible change since a late November poll.”

Lack of attendance was Topic A at this year’s AASA conference, but the lively lineup of speakers and a trade-show floor featuring more than 400 exhibitors, including many technology companies, also commanded the attention of conference-goers.

Country singer Dolly Parton was the main attraction at the conference’s first general session. She opened with the theme song from the movie 9 to 5 and closed singing part of the hit song “I’ll Always Love You,” which she wrote. In between, she received an award from AASA and spoke of her Imagination Library.

“My goal is to get a book each month to every prekindergarten child in the country,” she said. “That’s 15 million books mailed out each month.”

She was joined on stage by AASA Executive Director Paul Houston. Noting that he has a daughter who is blonde, he asked Parton what she thinks of dumb blonde jokes. Her reply:

“I don’t think about them, because I know I’m not dumb and I know I’m not blonde.”

Parton’s one-liners were a warm up for the zingers of satirist Mark Russell, who spoke to the third general assembly. Russell made fun of his audience (“Nobody ever says I want to grow up to be a superintendent”), current events, political figures, tobacco companies, and the Taliban. And even he couldn’t resist taking a shot at conference attendance.

“This event was brought to you by Enron,” he quipped. “Arthur Andersen was brought in to count the crowd. [Andersen declared] there are 50,000 people in this room.”

During the conference, AASA and ARAMARK ServiceMaster named the 15th recipient of the National Superintendent of the Year award: Gail Uilkema, schools chief in the 2,600-student district serving Piedmont, Calif., an affluent community near Oakland.

Uilkema edged out three other finalists: Lorraine Costella, superintendent of the 2,900-student Kent County Public Schools in Chestertown, Md.; R. Stephen Rasmussen, superintendent of the 7,900-student Franklin Pierce School District in Tacoma, Wash.; and Eric Smith, superintendent of the 106,000-student Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools in Charlotte, N.C.

Technology is prominent at Piedmont. Ninety-eight percent of the district’s 500 computers and 100 percent of its classrooms are wired to the internet. Instruction is available in the latest software, a coordinator is stationed at each school site, and a full-time technology coordinator oversees the whole operation.

Momentum builds on eLearning

In a revealing study of electronic learning (eLearning) trends, Apex Learning and Blackboard Inc. indicated that more than half of United States high schools now offer online courses or are exploring them for the future.

The study, “Online Courses and Other Types of Online Learning for High School Students,” was conducted by Interactive Educational Systems Design Inc. of New York City. The results were unveiled at the conference Feb. 15.

Researchers surveyed 447 high school principals and 345 school district administrators. Their findings revealed that more than 40 percent of all public high schools already use online courses or are planning to start using them during this school year. Another 17 percent are interested in offering online courses in the future.

The study also revealed that 32 percent of public school districts will adopt and use an eLearning platform for the first time in 2002.

“When we began this study, we expected that we would see a fair number of schools offering online courses, but the momentum that virtual learning is building in U.S. high schools is noteworthy,” said Jay Sivin-Kachala, principal investigator. “The data suggest that many educational leaders are committed to taking advantage of the benefits that online courses can offer their students.”

School administrators who were surveyed indicated they are turning to online courses to help tackle a number of challenges.

Delivering a broader curriculum cost-effectively and expanding college preparation and Advanced Placement offerings were among the top reasons they gave for adopting online courses. Providing educational equity and resolving scheduling conflicts also were cited as key motivators. When selecting a vendor for online courses, survey respondents reported that an accredited curriculum was the No. 1 factor in their decision-making process. Other important factors included affordability; configuration for the needs of grades 9-12; ease and speed of implementation; reporting of student progress and outcomes; and realistic time and training demands on district and school staff.

To read the report’s executive summary, go to www.apexlearning.com or www.blackboard.com.

Exhibitor news

In the exhibit hall, technology solutions vied for attendees’ attention with food service companies, employee benefits providers, and other low-tech suppliers. Here are some of the key technology companies who were on hand:

Adobe Systems recently announced new Macintosh versions of two popular school titles, the web authoring software GoLive 6.0 and animation software Live Motion 2.0. “We are pleased to demonstrate our commitment to the OS X platform by delivering new native versions of Illustrator, InDesign, LiveMotion, GoLive, and After Effects,” said Shantanu Narayen, Adobe’s executive vice president of worldwide product marketing and development. “The reliability and performance of Mac OS X.1, coupled with our award-winning applications, will help our customers reap the benefits of network publishing.” http://www.adobe.com

Bigchalk unveiled four new database tools that facilitate student inquiry and learning. Bigchalk Multimedia, a reference database for middle and high school students, contains more than 435,000 audio and video clips, pictures, TV and radio transcripts, and maps, providing students with a full range of multimedia information for use in learning activities. Bigchalk Library Elementary is an easy-to-use reference tool with a broad range of content chosen specifically for K-5 students. Featuring an appealing interface for younger children, Library Elementary provides elementary students with access to audio and video clips and editorially selected web content along with traditional reference material, such as encyclopedia text, magazine and newspaper articles, maps, and pictures. Literature Online for Schools is a high school library database that combines a rich array of information and works with an intuitive interface. Finally, ProQuest Health delivers a broad spectrum of health-related and scientific material and presents it in accessible layman’s terms. http://www.bigchalk.com

Brodart’s Books Division has announced enhancements to its web-based collection development and ordering site, Bibz.com. These enhancements offer librarians a number of value-added services. Currently, Brodart has more than 16,000 customers using Bibz.com. Their feedback resulted in the following site enhancements: order duplicate checking, order status reporting, and improvements to age and grade range searching. Collection Development Manager Lauren Lee said, “Making enhancements to the Bibz.com site will be an ongoing process, in which we will continually be soliciting customers for feedback.” http://www.brodart.com

Shortly before the AASA conference, Houston-based Cimarron signed an agreement with the Cambridge Group to develop a comprehensive strategic planning package for school districts. Known as the Strategic Performance System (SPS), the package will increase a superintendent’s ability to track and monitor the educational progress of schools within the district. Through SPS, schools can develop their own performance plans, which can be easily monitored at the district level. By pulling up easy-to-read reports from a common database, superintendents can track student performance, compare school plans with the overall district’s plan, and make necessary changes to improve the quality of education. http://www.cimarroninc.com

Classroom Connect, a subsidiary of Harcourt Inc., previewed a new student-centered web quest, which runs Feb. 25 to March 22. During GreeceQuest, a team of explorers and scientists will bicycle through the ancient lands of Greece and Turkey to explore the true roots of western civilization, challenging K-12 students to answer the question, “Are the true origins of western civilization to be found in the East?” Classroom Connect also announced that it had formed a partnership with the Philadelphia-based Franklin Institute, which is widely recognized for its innovative science education programs. The partnership will enhance Classroom Connect’s suite of internet-based learning resources with content from the Franklin Institute Online’s science and technology collections. http://www.classroom.com

In January, Dell Computer announced that it had begun calling for interested school districts to submit proposals for Dell TechKnow, a technology training program that teaches middle school students to take computers apart, put them back together, and—at the end of the program—take their computers home at no cost. To be considered for Dell TechKnow, school districts must have an urban population of students who are at risk of missing classes and not graduating, and they must be willing to establish and support the training program and local community partnerships. For a complete description of criteria and to apply for the program, visit http://www.dell.com/k12/techknow.

According to a survey commissioned by Jones Knowledge, called “The Role of Librarians in the Digital Age,” 87 percent of librarians said their biggest challenge is the perception that “everything can be found on the internet.” The second largest challenge was funding library programs, services, and resources. Only two percent of those surveyed considered keeping up with current technology a challenge. Jones Knowledge also announced that it will deliver 25 Apex Learning online professional development courses via its Jones e-education course management and delivery platform. http://www.jonesknowledge.com

Lightspan debuted a customizable, online assessment tool called Lightspan Assessment Builder. The tool was designed to help schools meet the yearly testing requirements mandated in the new education law, No Child Left Behind. By using Lightspan Assessment Builder, district administrators can create assessments that are correlated to local standards, use paper and pencil tests in an online environment, or create test items in additional languages and subject areas. They can select from more than 60,000 test questions developed by Lightspan content experts or create their own from scratch using Lightspan Item Builder. http://www.lightspan.com

NCS Pearson has combined three education software and curriculum businesses to create a complete education package for schools consisting of curriculum, assessment, and enterprise data management products. The new business, called NCS Learn, represents the combination of NCS Pearson’s K-12 Enterprise Software Solutions group, the SchoolCONNECTxp application service provider, and the NCS Learn comprehensive courseware group. As a result, NCS Learn will offer schools a product called NCS4School, featuring administrative, curriculum, assessment, and collaboration programs in a single online solution. http://www.ncslearn.com

NetSchools Corp. announced that a new version of its online accountability system for student achievement, NetSchools Orion Version 4.0, will debut this summer. The new edition will allow schools to add online lesson planning, assignments, assessment, textbook correlation, reporting, and communication as their needs dictate. NetSchools also launched “Nettie’s Net News,” a free online newsletter written by teachers that will offer classroom tips and links to internet resources. http://www.netschools.com

QuickPAD Technology Corp. showcased its low-cost mobile computing solutions for education. The QuickPAD IR and QuickPAD PRO have built-in keyboards and small LCD screens. They use simple technology coupled with notebook applications that let students word process, manage and organize contacts, schedule due dates, and more. The QuickPAD IR costs less than $199, operates on four AA batteries for up to 400 hours, and can hold up to 250 individually named files in 10 separate folders. Using infrared technology, files easily can be transferred into any writing application in either a PC or Macintosh computer with just a single keystroke. http://www.quickpad.com

Riverdeep-The Learning Company announced that it has teamed with Kaplan K-12 Learning Services to provide training for teachers in Florida schools using Riverdeep’s products. Under the terms of the agreement, Kaplan will provide experienced instructional consultants to help public school teachers in South Florida use Riverdeep’s suite of web-based curriculum products, including Destination Math and Science Explorer. Kaplan, as a leading provider of K-12 educational and training services, was selected as a result of its success at providing professional development services to thousands of educators in large urban school districts nationwide, such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Miami. http://www.riverdeep.net

A New Jersey school district is deploying SpectraLink’s NetLink system of wireless telephones for every teacher and staff member at its 13 schools to improve safety and security. The New Brunswick School District will give its teaching, administrative, and technical staff members portable handsets to help them stay connected to the world both inside and outside the school walls, no matter where they are on the school grounds. The NetLink wireless telephones will be integrated with Cisco’s CallManager IP telephony application and Cisco Aironet wireless LAN access points in each school. http://www.spectralink.com

ProfessionalTeacher.com is a free, online service designed to simplify license renewals and professional development for K-12 teachers. The site was launched by Canter & Associates, a division of Sylvan Learning Systems. ProfessionalTeacher.com aims to streamline the recertification process for individual teachers attempting to meet their states’ requirements, as well as their own individual professional development goals. The site features concise, state-by-state license renewal requirements; links to state-specific renewal forms; a comprehensive glossary of current state terms; and a career center for working teachers. It also describes professional development options ranging from single courses to master’s degree programs to help teachers further their education. http://www.sylvan.net

Illinois teachers can now use a professional development CD-ROM from Technology Learning Solutions Inc. to earn continuing education credits. The CD-ROM, called “TLS Solution One: Internet Integration,” guides teachers to teach subjects such as math, science, and social studies in innovative ways. It also explains the WebQuest technique, an inquiry-based approach in which students use the internet to gather information for analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. http://www.tlstraining.com ______________________

Associate Editor Elizabeth B. Guerard and Assistant Editor Cara Branigan also contributed to this report.

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Proponents of Ga. video-game ban cite school violence

A desire to shield students from video-game content that some believe could incite school violence is part of the motivation for controversial new legislation in Georgia. State lawmakers there have introduced a bill that would make it illegal to sell to children graphically violent video games meant for adults.

Even though video games are now rated to warn parents of violent conduct, in many states there is no legal penalty for people who sell or rent graphic games to children.

Some Georgia House Democrats want to change that. The bill, H.B. 1378, or the Violent Video Game Protection Act, also would require retailers to publicize the content ratings of the games they sell.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Democratic Rep. Carolyn Hugley, said the bill was inspired by a report on WRBL-TV in her hometown of Columbus, Ga., where children as young as 13 were filmed buying violent games from retailers.

To comply with the bill, purveyors of video or computer games would be required to make available the most recent listings of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) for the inspection and review by any potential purchaser or user of the game.

Merchants who fail to comply with this requirement or who supply violent games to children would be charged with a misdemeanor.

The ESRB is an independent, voluntary board set up to classify and provide information for parents and consumers on the content of video and computer games. Established in September 1994 by the U.S. Interactive Digital Software Association, the board was created as a response to public pressure and threat of legislation from the U.S. Congress.

ESRB ratings range from those designed for very small children, Early Childhood (EC), to Adults Only (AO), representing “graphic depictions of sex and/or violence.”

The proposed bill defines “graphic violence” as any game showing decapitation, bloodshed, dismemberment, killing, and death by the use of lethal weapons or hand-to-hand combat.

Only about 7 percent of video games made last year fell into the ESRB’s Mature (M) category, which “may include more intense violence or language than products in the Teen [T] category [and] may also include mature sexual themes.” The majority of video games are rated E for Everybody.

According to the drafters of H.B. 1378, “Within the last ten years the video game market, particularly the use of home video game systems, has exploded throughout this state and the nation. Video games are available to children not only at traditional places of business specializing in amusement but also through a variety of retail outlets and magazine sales for home use and by communication on the internet.”

Improvements in the quality of video game graphics and technology has made the games amazingly realistic, the legislators say, and “some, but not all, video games contain graphic and repeated scenes of violence.”

Citing “current scientific data,” Georgia democrats say the “repeated exposure to graphic violence and participation in violent interactive games may contribute to violent behavior by our youth and desensitizes them to acts of violence.”

But education law expert Craig Wood, of Virginia-based McGuire Woods LLP, said there might not be a scientific basis for that allegation.

“I have not seen specific research that links video game violence to actual violent behavior, especially of the serious sort described in the [legislation],” he said. “But in light of the incidence of school violence, I hope that some legitimate scholarly work is being done in this area and shared with the public.”

The bill mentions similar restrictions of graphically violent media that have been imposed in recent years on movies, television, and music, with the goal of making parents more aware of what their kids are being exposed to. “I hope this will bring attention to the fact that we need to take a look at these games children are playing, just as we would look at the movies our children are watching,” Hugley said.

Wood agreed there is “no question parents need to be more involved in the decisions their children are making and how they spend their out-of-school time.”

But, he said, while schools should be interested in supporting legislation that will make children safer, the legislation “needs to be reasonably related to the stated objectives and supported by actual research, not just rhetoric.”

Wood also said that while he’s never heard of a similar statute, if the final law is drafted well, it would be enforceable by Georgia authorities, because “courts have upheld similar statutes with other products.”

Links:

House Bill 1378
http://www.state.ga.us/services/newleg/legsearch.cgi?year=2001&bill=HB1378&highlight=video%7Cviolence

Entertainment Software Rating Board
http://www.esrb.org

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FCC approves major breakthrough in wireless technology

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved limited use of a new technology that reportedly provides a faster and more secure way to send wireless transmissions.

The technology, known as ultrawideband (UWB), offers a potential solution to the squeeze on the nation’s airwaves created by the explosion of mobile phone, pager, and other wireless device usage.

That’s because UWB devices operate over a wide swath of the airwaves, within frequencies already allocated to other uses, by using millions of pulses each second that emit so little energy they do not interfere with other signals.

The FCC voted unanimously to allow the technology to be used on an unlicensed basis. The commission, however, opted to “err on the side of conservatism,” at least for now, by requiring that UWB be used only at certain frequencies and—in some cases—only by certain users.

The full implications of these limits, described in a 100-page document few were able to digest immediately, were unclear at press time. Still, companies involved in developing UWB applications were thrilled to see the FCC take a major step forward.

“We’ve gone from basically being illegal to being legal,” said Jeffrey Ross, a vice president of Time Domain Corp., the Huntsville, Ala., company that developed the technology.

Time Domain is one of a handful of companies that have received waivers to begin marketing UWB devices and were pursuing FCC approval.

UWB, formerly known as “digital-pulse” technology, is the first technology to fuse wireless communications, precise positioning, and radar capabilities into a single chipset architecture, according to Time Domain. The resulting technology can transmit vast amounts of data at high speeds, “see” through walls, and pinpoint exact locations.

UWB is used now mostly by the United States military, but new commercial applications that could be allowed under the standards set by the FCC include wireless, high-speed transmissions over short distances and indoors, such as sending video or data from a handheld device or server to a laptop computer; and sensors in cars that can alert a driver to movement near the vehicle, preventing collisions and promoting “smart” air bag deployment.

Otherwise, the FCC primarily limited UWB technology to public safety uses.

For instance, only police and fire officials, scientific researchers, and mining or construction companies could use so-called ground-penetrating radar devices, which could help rescuers find victims in rubble or locate ruptured gas lines underground.

The FCC also limited devices that can see through walls and detect motion within certain areas to law enforcement and firefighters, which could use them to see into a building during a hostage situation or evaluate a fire from the outside. It was unclear whether those applications will be possible at the low power levels set by the FCC.

Developers of educational content told eSchool News they were excited by UWB’s prospects for schools.

“I’d very much like to commend the FCC, and I’d like to see [the agency] continue this commitment and vision to getting the technology to [users] as quickly as possible,” said Linda Patrick, director of educational sales for Virtual Impact Productions Inc., a Longwood, Fla., company that supplies online textbooks to schools. The FCC’s decision “is going to help us out for sure,” Patrick said. “All the products and services we offer are more readily accessed through ultrawideband. We offer 735-plus online courses, and you can take them on a dial-up [connection], but you’d go nuts. I don’t recommend it.” Installing a wireless network in a school building currently requires a great deal of infrastructure, such as wireless access points in the ceilings of every fourth or fifth classroom. But UWB “would require very little infrastructure,” Time Domain senior vice president Peggy Sammon told eSchool News for a 1999 story. (See “‘Digital-pulse’ technology could change your life,” May 1999, http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=537.)

The FCC proceeded cautiously out of uncertainty whether UWB could coexist safely with other services, such as military airwaves use, cell phones, and the Global Positioning System, the U.S.-built network of navigation satellites.

Commissioners acknowledged the standards might be overprotective but pledged to consider the question again in six months to a year.

Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Steven Price, a deputy assistant secretary at the Pentagon, praised the FCC’s approach.

“To remain the world leader, we must continue to encourage deployment of important new technologies while protecting those that already exist,” Evans said.

Links:

Federal Communications Commission
http://www.fcc.gov

Time Domain Corp.
http://www.time-domain.com

Virtual Impact Productions Inc.
http://www.virtualed.org/login/login.asp

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