Kansas School District Installs Innovative Instructional Technology with a District-Wide Concept

Lawton, MI, May 2002 — SAFARI Technologies, Inc., a prominent educational video networking solutions provider, announced today that students at Salina Public School District in Kansas would be getting the most technologically advanced presentation environment for their schools. Chosen for its innovative architecture, the SAFARI Video Network System is in the process of being installed at Salina with a district-wide concept.

SAFARI’s Network President, Timothy Beekman, says, “Salina is leading the charge for visual presentation solutions. Whether it is visual curriculum content, digital video, teleconferencing or distance learning, the Salina District is at the forefront of a momentum toward the district approach for delivering a wide range of visual media to its classrooms and media stations. Salina chose Bill Day, KBD Planning Group, Inc., Bloomington, IN, from several firms to assist them with this multi-million dollar effort. KBD is pleased to be part of this aggressive thinking process and has done an excellent job.”

Located in north central Kansas, the Salina Public School District has approximately 7,600 students in 13 schools. Converged voice, data and multimedia are delivered to the District’s Network Control Center (NCC) using the city’s Metropolitan Area Network. This NCC is the powerhouse for the District. It contains all the major new and traditional hardware in a massive head end and 90% of its educational content resources. The NCC transmits/receives both digital and analog multimedia to a mini-head end in each school, which then feeds each of the 568 classrooms and 35 other media stations.

What is visionary in this solution is its first-to-market architecture that integrates SAFARI’s Digital Media Commander (DMC) and its digital content video-on-demand system, called eDireq. The DMC is a device controller, managing the programming, distribution and selection of broadcast equipment or video conferencing. Its companion, eDireq, brings digital display and storage capabilities. eDireq houses hundreds of hours of copyright/royalty free digital content, allowing educators and students to research, save, present and share presentations. eDireq also has a State Standards Database and intuitively calls up visual resources for lesson preparation or for spontaneous instruction.

Dwight Christie, Director for Salina’s Management Information Systems, says, “Ours isn’t a wealthy district. Until recently, we had very little technology in our schools. However, in 1998 our community got together and passed a local sales tax to partially fund school technology because we recognized its value as a tool for learning. This sales tax, along with a commitment of district funds has made technology a priority. Now we are installing a state-of-the-art video system and the future is full of potential for providing our district with limitless resources. The biggest thing the SAFARI System affords us is flexibility, enabling anytime, anywhere access. We are discussing and evaluating all kinds of applications for the classrooms and other media stations in our libraries and gymnasiums, between the schools, among adjacent districts and the community at large. We have eliminated infrastructure barriers, allowing teachers to explore all possibilities. We will have the resources and the delivery system to impact the instructional and learning environment in our schools and beyond.”

About SAFARI

SAFARI Technologies, Inc. is an experienced and innovative producer of high-quality video networking solutions in the educational community. Dedicated to the advancement of student achievement through visual learning, SAFARI provides access to a range of visual learning tools and ensures value through integrated systems, products, services and solutions from a client/server TCP/IP-controlled system to plug-and-play devices. Because of the breadth of its technologies and familiarity with the challenges and needs facing educators, cost effective, user-friendly and flexible systems are tailored toward each school’s budget, educational needs and infrastructure. SAFARI’s eDireq System delivers digital display/storage capabilities via a digital server. Through content partnerships, the system manages and distributes a vast collection of standards-based copyright/royalty free MPEG digital video. SAFARI’s uniquely engineered Digital Media Commander (DMC) delivers both digital and analog multimedia directly from the network to the classroom. The DMC can also be customized for audio/visual paging, intercom, synchronized clocks and security. SAFARI’s professional development staff contains certified teachers who train educators how to maximize their equipment’s effectiveness and assimilate visual learning into their lesson plans and activities. More information on SAFARI’s systems, products and services is available at http://www.SAFARIpathways.com

SAFARI Technologies, Inc.
Video Network Division
63855 M-40 Highway
Lawton, MI 49065

Telephone: 800 -782-7230
Facsimile: 616 – 624-7248

Contact: Judy Remington
Network Marketing Manager
(616) 624-7128 Ext. 11
jaremington@1safari.com

###

>Boca Raton, FL – Boca Raton-based companies CrossTec Corporation (www.CrossTecCorp.com) and Grandview Preparatory School (www.GrandviewPrep.net) have set up an educational partnership to help implement and test new technologies in the school with the goal of increasing student interactivity and learning. Grandview, a small private school, strives to make use of the latest technology to create learning environments that are highly engaging and interactive. CrossTec will be working with Grandview to integrate NetOp Remote Control and NetOp School computers to gain a quantitative and qualitative understanding of how these products enhance education.

According to David Richards, President of CrossTec, “Grandview is on the leading edge of educational technology with every student having a computer at their desk. Grandview will be installing NetOp School on each student PC to enable teachers to better manage technology and create a more interactive learning environment.” NetOp Remote Control will also be placed on every computer in the school, including students and faculty, so that network administrators will be able to immediately fix PC problems and increase productivity.

About NetOp’s remote support and training solutions NetOp School, winner of the 2002 Media & Methods Portfolio Award, has been shown to greatly enhance classroom interactivity by providing teachers with tools that enable them to broadcast live demo screens to participants’ PCs; mark up the featured screen to highlight a lesson; create monitored chat rooms or allow students to send them private questions via an instant message button located on student PCs. NetOp School increases student time-on-task by providing teachers with an easy way to monitor student PC activity while they work. This gives teachers a chance to see if a student is having trouble or is using their computer in an inappropriate manner. NetOp School also provides tools to help instructors multi-task their efforts, including the ability to send coursework and files to all student PCs, remote control students for one-on-one instruction, shut down or restart PCs and view the classroom participants and their screens in several different ways.

The award-winning NetOp Remote Control was designed specifically to meet the needs of IT professionals who require impenetrable security, scalability and real-time speed to control distant PCs over the Internet, networks or via modems. With NetOp Remote Control users can easily view the remote PC’s screen, control its keyboard and mouse, synchronize files, launch applications or chat with someone at the remote PC – just as if they were seated at that computer. NetOp Remote Control offers organizations of all sizes a rapid return on their investment by enabling IT departments to fix more problems, in a shorter period of time, without having to travel to that computer. CrossTec Corporation is the resource in North America for the award-winning NetOp family of remote management and training software products. CrossTec provides sales and support through a network of authorized resellers and directly to larger corporations, organizations and educational institutions. Future benefits of the partnership could include integrating the technology in portable hand-held devices, providing an opportunity for students to join a class from home if sick and for creating a distance-learning curriculum for other educational institutions.

About Grandview Preparatory School’s commitment to new technology Grandview Preparatory School is an independent, non-sectarian, college preparatory, co-educational day school enrolling students from Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12. The mission of Grandview Preparatory School is to provide a unique educational program that will fully realize the instructional power of new technology.

To achieve this mission, Grandview’s curriculum was designed to engage each student in the active pursuit of knowledge. According to Tom Janton, Chairman of Mission Implementation, “Through the integration of multimedia technology within a supportive, collaborative and nurturing environment, students will become lifelong learners who possess the skills, confidence, and flexibility to meet the demands of a future that promises the challenge of constant change.”

###


Please address editorial inquiries to:

Melissa Hoffman, Public Relations Coordinator
CrossTec Corporation
800-675-0729, FAX 561-391-5820
Melissa@CrossTecCorp.com

>Lawton, MI, May 2002 — SAFARI Technologies, Inc., a prominent educational video networking solutions provider, is pleased to announce that it has joined forces with Instructional Resources Corporation (IRC), also known on the Web as historypictures.com. This alliance brings a huge collection of historical photos and videos into SAFARI’s digital content on-demand LAN-based delivery system, eDireq. eDireq will now be able to offer educational institutions an even larger assortment of the highest quality visuals from antiquity to the present for inclusion in presentations, projects, research, or spontaneous learning situations.

This new partnership builds on SAFARI’s commitment to understand the current needs of educators and equip them with superior visual learning tools to meet those needs. Because scientific-based research indicates that visual learning helps students connect concepts and real-world activities, both companies envision this partnership advancing the way media can boost interest, involvement and achievement.

SAFARI’s Network President, Timothy Beekman, says, “I am impressed with the way that IRC has carefully selected and prepared these full screen images and abstracts on all major areas of world history. The narrated overview at the beginning of each major area is exceptionally useful for placing the material in context.”

The partnership combines content with storage, delivery, display and management. IRC’s content covers four major groups: American History, California History, Western Civilization, and World History beyond Europe including Africa, Asia and Latin America. IRC’s content contains thousands of still images plus hundreds of video clips and historical audio recordings with transcriptions. These images depict historical figures, events, distant places, artifacts, ruins, maps, works of art and political cartoons.

SAFARI’s eDireq System brings the digital display and storage capabilities via a digital video server (SAFARI’s Management Server) and a digital video storage device (SAFARI’s Content File Server). Instructors love this system because of its easy, on-demand access to visual materials. The content can be searched by keyword or title and bookmarked for custom viewing. Students love the system because of its superior image quality.

Bill White, IRC’s CEO, says, “We are very happy that we can offer our product to educators through such as an impressive delivery system. This is a great combination and we look forward to a successful and enjoyable relationship as we actively refine, update and expand our image selections.”

IRC’s content will be available for purchase on SAFARI’s eDireq System in the Autumn of 2002.

About Instructional Resources Corporation (IRC) IRC is a small, privately held company, specializing in the assembly of high-quality history collections for educators and students. IRC has successfully developed, adapted and marketed their products for K-12 social studies and college history departments since 1977. IRC products are in use in every state and in several countries. IRC’s products have included slide collections, bar-coded videodiscs, html-based products and CD-ROMs which include The American History CD-ROM; The Western Civilization CD-ROM; The World History CD-ROM (a comprehensive historical overview of the histories of countries beyond the U.S. and Europe) and the History of California CD-ROM. These products are continually being improved and upgraded. The use of the CDs with PowerPoint has been very popular, allowing students, teachers, and home-schooled children to easily produce their own presentations. IRC works with television producers, magazines, distance learning projects, and provides image research for history books at all grade levels. Historypictures.com was the primary visuals source for the Annenberg/ WGBH series, A Biography of America.

About SAFARI SAFARI Technologies, Inc. is an experienced and innovative producer of high-quality video networking solutions in the educational community. Dedicated to the advancement of student achievement through visual learning, SAFARI provides access to a range of visual learning tools and ensures value through integrated systems, products, services and solutions from a client/server TCP/IP-controlled system to plug-and-play devices. Because of the breadth of its technologies and familiarity with the challenges and needs facing educators, cost effective, user-friendly and flexible systems are tailored toward each school’s budget, educational needs and infrastructure. SAFARI’s eDireq System delivers digital display/storage capabilities via a digital server. Through content partnerships, the system manages and distributes a vast collection of standards-based copyright/royalty free MPEG digital video. SAFARI’s uniquely engineered Digital Media Commander (DMC) delivers both digital and analog multimedia directly from the network to the classroom. The DMC can also be customized for audio/visual paging, intercom, synchronized clocks and security. SAFARI’s professional development staff contains certified teachers who train educators how to maximize their equipment’s effectiveness and assimilate visual learning into their lesson plans and activities. More information on SAFARI’s systems, products and services is available at http://www.SAFARIpathways.com

SAFARI Technologies, Inc.
Video Network Division
63855 M-40 Highway
Lawton, MI 49065

Telephone: 800 – 782-7230
Facsimile: 616 – 624-7248

Contact: Judy Remington
Network Marketing Manager
jaremington@1safari.com

Instructional Resources Corporation
1819 Bay Ridge Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21403

Telephone: 800-922-1711
Facsimile: 410-268-8320

Contact: Bill White
Chief Executive Officer
ircemail@aol.com

>CONTACT:

Tangent Computer, Inc.
Jay Buckner
Director of Makreting
800 342-9388 x1198

Burlingame, CA (May 20, 2002) – Tangent Computer, Inc., manufacturer of computer systems engineered for education and government environments, today announced a major introductory offer to demonstrate the value that Tangent Valera® DDR AMD Athlon processor-powered PCs offer to the education environment.

Tangent Computer is the largest computer manufacturer selling directly and exclusively to educational institutions and state & local governments. Customers include 350 universities/colleges, more than 2,490 schools and school districts, and 430 state government agencies, as well as numerous state contracts coast to coast.

While the supply lasts and for a limited time, the company will sell qualified school districts across the country a maximum of two high-performance Valera DDR desktop classroom computers with a free AMD AThlon XP processor 1800+. A maximum of 400 systems will be made available on a first come, first served basis through July 15, 2002. The introductory price is $739 and includes Microsoft Windows XP Professional as well as a three-year parts & labor and three-year on-site limited warranty and lifetime toll-free tech support. Complete system specs feature:

Ref. #Q160319
AMD Athlon XP Processor 1800+
10-bay ATX Mid-tower with PC 99
128MB DDR PC2100 Memory
16MB NVIDIA Vanta TNT2, AGP 4X/2X
1.44MB 3.5” Floppy Drive
40.0GB (1) Hard Drive
52X EIDE CD-ROM
17” Monitor 1280×1024 75Hz .27dp Diag.
10/100Mbit NIC, RJ45
I/O Ports 2 Serial, 1 Parallel, 2 USB, 2 PS/2
Integrated AC97 Audio Controller
Multimedia Speakers
Internet Keyboard PS/2 with Palm Rest
5-button, 2-wheel Mouse, PS/2
Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional
3-year Parts & Labor Warranty
3-year On-site Service
Lifetime Toll-free Technical Support
$739 – shipping & taxes additional

Tangent’s Valera DDR PC offers ample expansion slots and drive bays engineered to enable easy deployment of interchangeable components. Campus IT professionals will have the muscle and flexibility to meet requirements across the enterprise. DDR RAM is expandable to 1.5GB or add a CD-RW and capture everything the class creates.

The complete line of Tangent products features AMD and Intel® processor-based high-performance desktops, notebooks and servers, and mobile, wireless classrooms. Tangent Thin Client networks offer a managed-service technology environment while Remote Management, Network & Support Services help improve network performance and identify problems before they affect users. The company is intent on taking the initiative to bring about innovative products, services and programs to the education sector.

About Tangent Computer Tangent has earned 8 Editor’s Choice awards from PC Magazine, Recommended Product awards from Windows Magazine and Best Buy awards from PC World (the latest, November 2001), and has appeared in PC World’s charts 18 out of 19 months, as recently as June 2002.

Tangent Computer corporate headquarters are located at 197 Airport Blvd., Burlingame, CA 94010. Additional information can be obtained by calling Tangent’s toll-free number 800 342-9388 or by visiting the Tangent Web site at www.tangent.com.

For hard drives, GB equals one billion bytes. 2002 Tangent Computer, Inc. All rights reserved. Prices and specifications valid in U.S. only and subject to change without notice. Shipping and taxes are additional. Tangent, the Tangent logo, and Valera are registered trademarks and Pillar and Network Alert are trademarks of Tangent Computer, Inc. AMD, the AMD Arrow logo, QuantiSpeed, AMD Athlon and combinations thereof are trademarks of Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. Microsoft and Windows are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the U.S. and other countries. Other product names are for identification purposes only and may be trade names of their respective companies.

>Calgary, AB — April 26, 2002 — SMART Technologies Inc. announces the SMART Camfire whiteboard camera system. Permanently mounted above a regular dry-erase whiteboard, this patent-pending system enables users to electronically capture high-resolution images of whiteboard notes with the touch of a button. Notes can then be saved, printed or posted to a Web site for future reference by meeting attendees, students, parents or teachers. As a self-contained solution, the SMART Camfire whiteboard camera system is always on and requires minimal training.

The SMART Camfire whiteboard camera system includes a camera boom and a control unit. The camera boom incorporates two 3.4 megapixel digital cameras and easily installs above a 4′ x 8′ whiteboard. Mounted beside the whiteboard, the control unit features a back-lit LCD, printer port, network connection and USB port to save directly to a USB memory device. Users press a single button on the control unit to save a digitally enhanced image of anything written, drawn or posted on the whiteboard. To record notes from multiple whiteboards, users may connect up to four camera booms to one control unit.

“With the SMART Camfire whiteboard camera , there is no setup before or during my classes, and I didn’t have to change my teaching style in order to use it,” says Kathy Burton, a math teacher at Willow Creek Composite High School in Claresholm, Alberta. “I have always used two whiteboards to write notes, and with the Camfire product I am able to use two camera booms with one control unit, so it is very convenient. Plus, both children and parents like being able to refer to class notes and assignments on the Internet.”

“Installing the Camfire whiteboard camera system in Mrs. Burton’s classroom was fast and easy,” says James Aitchison, the school’s network administrator. “In less than 48 hours, I installed the Camfire product, connected it to our school’s network and set up a Web page for her to post class notes. Now Mrs. Burton can capture images of her whiteboard notes throughout the day. At the end of the day, she literally drags and drops the Camfire files into our Web publishing software and – poof! – it’s on the Web, ready for parents and kids to view, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

“The Camfire whiteboard camera system is the perfect solution for organizations that are already using a whiteboard to write notes,” says Nancy Knowlton, president and COO of SMART Technologies Inc. “With its ease of use and accuracy, the Camfire whiteboard camera system makes it effortless to conduct a meeting or lesson, then digitally capture notes for printing or posting to the Web.” Software

The SMART Camfire whiteboard camera system operates with patented software that joins the images from the two high-resolution digital cameras and transforms them into a JPEG computer file. The software normalizes color, corrects keystoning and creates high-quality images of notes written on a 4′ x 8′ whiteboard. Even notes at the edges of the board are accurately reproduced. Availability

The SMART Camfire whiteboard camera system is scheduled to ship in the summer of 2002. For additional information, specifications or authorized resellers, visit www.smarttech.com/camfire or call 1.888.42.SMART.

###

For more information, contact:
Public Relations
SMART Technologies Inc.
403.802.2595
pr@smarttech.com

>Lawton, MI, June 2002 — SAFARI Technologies, Inc., a prominent educational video networking solutions provider, announced today that its partnership with “The Video Encyclopedia of the Twentieth Century”, owned by Sunrise Media, is providing mounting evidence that digital visual presentation tools combined with curriculum content is transforming the way instruction and learning takes place in the classroom.

Los Angeles Unified School District’s Thomas Starr King Middle School, CA, Houston Independent Schools, TX, and Red Hook Central School District, NY have been the first to install SAFARI’s new digital content on-demand system called eDireq . eDireq delivers digital resources from Video Encyclopedia’s library collection into the classroom for curriculum supplements and presentations. Ordering the eDireq system in November of 2001, the schools have just begun to reap some of its benefits.

SAFARI’s eDireq system brings the digital display and storage capabilities via a SNAP Server for Video Encyclopedia’s 87 hours of video news clips. Covering the years 1893 through 1990, the clips contain 2,338 full-motion video units ranging in length from 1-9 minutes. The copyright/loyalty free content includes culture and entertainment, Civil Rights, disasters and tragedies, human achievements, international affairs, major speeches, portraits, science and technology, social history, sports, U.S. politics and government, and war and military affairs. This powerful new digital resource is making a big hit with the school’s instructors and especially their students.

Los Angeles Unified School District’s magnet school, Thomas Starr King Middle School, installed the system as a pilot program to support their educational lab. Paul Robinson, SAFARI Regional Sales Manager, says, “Installing the system was such an enjoyable experience. It took about 2-½ hours to load and stream video on their 30 iMACS. Within 5-10 minutes after completion, students had come in and with minimal instruction were downloading pictures, pulling up videos, taking snap shots and totally utilizing the system.”

Warren Dale, LA Unified’s Technology Facilitator, also sees a lot of exuberance among the 6th grade students. In a school where 90% of their students do not have English as the primary language, eDireq is a real boost. Dale says, “They like the high content quality versus what they can obtain over the Internet. The quality and the full screen/full motion videos capture their interest and make the material so compelling they are willing to slow down grasp what they see. It is SAFARI’s use of the Snap Server to house the content that is the genius. It has made all the difference. The students are enjoying the system very much, especially in their homework and projects.” Dale boasts of a recent project where the students have used video footage to illustrate their poems. “They love the power of being able to manipulate good rich content at their fingertips.”

Houston ISD installed a pilot eDireq system running from one Snap Server to support both their PC and Macintosh training centers (labs). Houston ISD has chosen to introduce their system first to their instructors through a summer professional development program called “The Blending Educational Strategies with Technology (BEST)”. Some 600 teachers are expected to attend, selecting from a variety of elective seminar workshops in the language, arts, publishing and video production disciplines. During the workshops, the teachers will receive hands-on multimedia training to advance their technology application proficiency. This year they are adding a Social Studies workshop and incorporating the system’s content. Upon completion of the workshop, teachers will have finished their own technologically created project. This prepares them to effectively implement and use their technology tools with curriculum in the fall. Houston ISD is also hosting a “Young Author’s Digital Publishing Fair”. This successful event offers storyboarding, broadcasting and video production. Joe Chase, Houston’s Instructional Supervisor for Technology, believes the numbers of teachers and students who will benefit from using the system and its content are enormous. Houston is an excellent example of the practical benefits from eDireq’s integration into the classroom. These programs directly impact the ability of teachers to advance student achievement.

Red Hook’s new eDireq runs from their headend video delivery system to 40 high school and 40 middle school classrooms, servicing some 1225 students. Dr. Edward Zajac, Red Hook’s Assistant Superintendent, says, “The system is heavily used especially in Social Studies and our staff members love it. SAFARI’s content server system, eDireq, was a very wise investment.”

Darren Fleishman, Social Studies teacher for Red Hook’s 7-8th graders, uses the system for a graphical portrayal when teaching events that had a great impact on the world and society. Fleishman says, “The system worked out very well when I did a segment recently on Civil Rights. It stimulated our discussion on the speeches of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Black Panther Movement. These primary visual documents work well in assay comparisons to accomplish many of my goals. The video clips get the student’s attention quickly and are very clear and crisp. We are currently using the video clips for lessons on World War II.”

About Sunrise Media

Sunrise Media is a highly acclaimed and award-winning production organization that specializes in information programming for television and institutional and corporate videos. Originally formed as Alvin H. Perlmutter Inc., in 1978, Sunrise Media has produced hundreds of film and video presentations for network and cable broadcast and videos, CD ROMs and DVDs for special targeted audiences. Sunrise content represents a broad range of topics including public affairs, cultural, business/financial and health/medical. Sunrise has received every major award in the television/documentary/information industry. Sunrise has a reputation for creating high quality information programming that has appeared on PBS and the commercial networks, HBO and other cable outlets and, through collaboration with various international broadcasters, its work has been seen by viewers worldwide. Sunrise has also pioneered successful joint ventures with magazines and book publishers, translating such print information into engaging video formats. More information can be found at www.sunrisemedia.tv.

About SAFARI SAFARI Technologies, Inc. is an experienced and innovative producer of high-quality video networking solutions in the educational community. Dedicated to the advancement of student achievement through visual learning, SAFARI provides access to a range of visual learning tools and ensures value through integrated systems, products, services and solutions from a client/server TCP/IP-controlled system to plug-and-play devices. Because of the breadth of its technologies and familiarity with the challenges and needs facing educators, cost effective, user-friendly and flexible systems are tailored toward each school’s budget, educational needs and infrastructure. SAFARI’s eDireq system delivers digital streaming/storage capabilities via a preloaded digital server. Through content partnerships, the system manages and distributes a vast collection of standards-based copyright/royalty free MPEG digital video. SAFARI’s uniquely engineered Digital Media Commander (DMC) delivers both digital and analog multimedia directly from the network to the classroom. The DMC can also be customized for audio/visual paging, intercom, synchronized clocks and security. SAFARI’s professional development staff contains certified teachers w

tags

“RuralEducation.org” connects schools in remote areas with 21st-century tools

The Rural Education Technology Alliance (RETA) is a new organization of five leading technology companies committed to working with rural educators and education organizations to assess and address the unique technology needs of rural schools. Member companies are San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems; Sun Microsystems, headquartered internationally; Charlotte, N.C.-based LearningStation; Polycom Inc. of Milpitas, Calif.; and Alaska-based General Communications Inc. (GCI). By working with education organizations and rural leaders, RETA aims to help implement strategies to improve educational technology in rural areas. The brand-new RETA web site contains a number of case studies from rural school entities that have implemented the products of the member groups creatively. Case studies include Oklahoma’s OneNet distance learning network, the Arizona Department of Education’s use of an ASP (application service provider) model to deliver software to the state’s school districts, and Alaska’s Northwest Arctic Borough School District’s satellite-based distance learning partnership with GCI, among others. The site also includes a searchable list of rural education resources.

tags

Arizona ASP plan mired in controversy

Arizona’s ambitious plan to provide its schools with more than 250 free software titles via the internet has hit a few snags early on.

According to a report from the East Valley Tribune of Mesa, officials from several Arizona districts have cited problems with accessing and navigating the $27.9 million system so far. What’s worse, the project’s leader has resigned amid controversy over his alleged ties to one of the companies involved—and at least one state lawmaker is calling for a special investigative audit into how the contract was awarded.

The revolutionary program was supposed to be the largest single example of the application service provider (ASP) model in education to date.

Including internet upgrades and new computers, the whole program will cost the state nearly $180 million. State officials pitched it as a way to link students to an internet-based computer network that would catapult Arizona into the future of cyber education.

Seven months into the project, however, some school officials say they are finding the system difficult to navigate.

The East Valley Tribune interviewed officials from 10 school districts, seven of which are piloting the new network, who reported a number of problems.

Many districts are having trouble logging in. Navigating the system also is difficult because some sites are down, the newspaper reported.

Accessing everything the system has to offer means some districts will have to pay thousands of dollars more each month for faster internet connections. Other problems with the system reportedly include inappropriate software, hidden costs, and questionable alignment to state standards.

“I think teachers were hoping this would be their savior, but I’m not sure it’s going to be the savior of the teaching world that they thought it would be,” Tim Hunt, director of technology for the Marana Unified School District, a pilot district, told the Tribune.

Some school officials told the newspaper that the state never asked for their input.

“It was kind of sprung on us,” said Ernie Nicely, director of information systems for the Mesa Unified School District. “It just happened. There’s been no evaluation [by school districts]. And there’s been no buy-in.”

The project was launched by Philip Geiger, the former director of the Arizona School Facilities Board.

Geiger resigned March 29 after Gov. Jane Hull warned him it would no longer be acceptable to dabble in outside business interests that overlapped with his job.

Geiger’s role in steering the contract to a consortium of companies involved in the technology initiative—he served as an advisor for one of the firms—reportedly was a factor in his falling out with Hull.

Under Geiger’s initiative, about $100 million would be spent upgrading internet hookups and other hardware needs.

An additional $50 million would be spent on new computers. And all of it would be used to provide schools with access to a library of school software programs delivered over the internet, at a cost of about $27.9 million.

Traditionally, software is loaded into individual computers. But Geiger favored the use of an ASP model designed by North Carolina-based LearningStation, which involves hooking up computers to an off-site storehouse of software programs via the internet.

The Tribune reported that Geiger sparked a review by the state attorney general’s office last year after he steered the $27.9 million software contract to a consortium of companies that included LearningStation.

According to the Tribune, Geiger had been a paid member of LearningStation’s advisory board of directors for two years by the time the contract was awarded.

The attorney general’s office determined that it could not take further action, however, because Geiger had no paid affiliation with the company when the contract was awarded.

In an interview with eSchool News, Geiger—who remains on the job until May 3—said the Tribune story misrepresented his relationship with LearningStation. “I’ve never been on [the company’s] board of directors,” he said.

Geiger said he attended three LearningStation advisory board meetings in 2000. The last one was held 10 months before the state awarded its ASP contract to Cox Communication, which subcontracted delivery of the software to LearningStation. To attend these advisory board meetings, Geiger said, LearningStation covered his expenses.

Geiger said he has no financial interest in Cox Comunication or LearningStation; that’s why he negotiated such a cost-effective deal for the state. “I saved the state some $278 million through my negotiations,” he said.

Nevertheless, state Senate President Randall Gnant, R-Scottsdale, reportedly has introduced a bill that would allow the state auditor general to launch special investigations at the request of lawmakers.

Gnant has indicated that the facilities board would be the first agency targeted for investigation if the bill passes, according to the Tribune.

As for criticism of the initiative itself, John Arnold, deputy director of the Arizona School Facilities Board, told eSchool News it’s premature for school officials to judge the project, as it is still being implemented. “You shouldn’t expect the end result only halfway through the process,” he said.

Arizona has 229 school districts and more than 1,200 schools. So far, about 500 schools are connected to the system, and the state’s goal is to have its remaining schools connected by the end of August.

“There are some quirks [in the system] right now,” Arnold acknowledged, “but within a year they will all be worked out.”

State officials are working to address the problems identified to date, Arnold said. For example, Cox Communication has set up a feedback system where educators can submit complaints and suggestions.

Based on the suggestions received so far, the state has asked vendors to show which components of the software align to which standards.

The Tribune reported that school officials told the newspaper some of the software offered through the system is “inappropriate … like one program that goes into detail about the mummification process.”

But school officials who think the state has wasted money on useless software should look at the larger picture, Arnold said.

“The entire package costs about eight bucks per kid. That’s about $5,000 per school, the price of an empty server,” he told eSchool News. “Did we pay a lot extra for mummification software? I don’t think so.”

An important feature of the system that was not stressed in the Tribune story is the ability of students to access and use the software at home, said Dan Neville, technology specialist for the Kyrene Elementary School District.

In addition to the 270 free software titles, the state has arranged special discount pricing so schools can buy 11,000 other programs for less money.

“There are some good titles there,” Neville said. “I think that each person … is looking at [the system] in terms of [his or her district’s] curriculum and readiness to use technology.”

Gary Nine, assistant superintendent for the Apache Junction Unified School District, said his district has access to the system but is not running it yet, because the system doesn’t fit the district’s needs.

Apache Junction teachers use software that has built-in assessment and reporting features, he said, but the software offered through Arizon’a ASP system doesn’t have this capability yet.

“Are there problems with doing something like this? Sure there are,” Nine said. “But if I [worked for] a district that had virtually nothing, I would say there is some good stuff here.”

He continued: “To say everything is bad about the ASP, and it doesn’t work—a lot of that is just resistance to change. In the big picture, what Geiger has done for the state of Arizona … is a good thing. There’s a ton of kids [who] have computers in front of them [who] didn’t have them three years ago.”

Will Geiger’s resignation affect the program’s future?

“I certainly hope not,” Arnold said. “I don’t believe we could have gotten here without [him]. He’s been an extraordinary asset to the state.”

Links:

Arizona School Facilities Board
http://www.sfb.state.az.us

East Valley Tribune
http://www.aztrib.com

LearningStation
http://www.learningstation.com

Apache Junction Unified School District
http://www.ajusd.k12.az.us

tags

NSBA suspends publication of Electronic School magazine

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is pulling the plug on its pioneering school technology magazine, Electronic School, after a near 20-year run.

A source within the organization confirmed that the January 2002 edition of Electronic School was the publication’s last. However, NSBA spokeswoman Renée Williams Hockaday would say only that the association has decided not to publish a June issue.

American School Board Journal is in the process of revising its supplement schedule for the next year,” Hockaday said. “In the past, we have published three to four special supplements [per year] covering education technology with Electronic School. However, for the upcoming year, we are expanding our coverage of topics. We will not cover technology with a June [issue of] Electronic School, but we still plan to cover technology with a special report in the fall.”

Published since the mid-1980s, Electronic School was the oldest school technology publication written exclusively for K-12 leaders. T.H.E. Journal, which also covers educational technology, began as a publication for higher education in the early 1970s and now targets K-12 leaders as well.

Electronic School reportedly reached more than 75,000 school board members, administrators, technology specialists, and other educators. It was a free supplement for subscribers to the American School Board Journal (ASBJ), a monthly publication of NSBA that costs $54.

Electronic School had been published on a quarterly basis until this year, when NSBA decided to scale it back to three issues per year.

Hockaday said the decision not to publish a June issue of Electronic School will not affect NSBA’s annual Technology + Learning conference, held in November, or the group’s education technology programs department.

Instead of focusing only on technology, Hockaday said, future ASBJ supplements will cover additional topics throughout the year, such as urban education and school infrastructure.

Links:

National School Boards Association
http://www.nsba.org

tags

Digital piracy bill raises fair-use concerns for schools

Digital content such as movies, music, and television programming—as well as the electronic devices used to access this content—would be required to incorporate a built-in technology to prevent unauthorized copying and distribution, according to a bill introduced into the Senate March 21.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, D-S.C., introduced the bill to help spur the development of content for newly emerging entertainment media, such as high-definition television and broadband internet.

But some legislative analysts fear the bill goes too far and would interfere with the legitimate classroom use of copyright-protected materials by educators, while others question the bill’s technical feasibility.

“It’s yet one more way of requiring content owners and device manufacturers to put copyright protection measures on their works and devices,” said Miriam Nisbett, legislative counsel for the American Library Association.

If its protection measure must be continually updated, the bill could prove costly for schools, Nisbett said: “If we are talking about schools having to keep up with and constantly upgrade [their technology], that’s a problem.”

Hollings’ bill, called the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (S. 2048), claims programmers are reluctant to make this kind of digital content because effective piracy solutions currently do not exist.

File sharing, downloading, and redistribution of movies, television programs, and music are rampant on the internet, content developers say. In addition, DVD players now can record movies and television programming.

Piracy was not as significant an issue for content developers until recently, because movies and music traditionally have been copied using analog technology, and this reduced the quality of the content. Reproducing content digitally doesn’t affect its quality.

The bill, which is supported by the movie and music industries, would require a standard for copyright protection technology to be created and adopted for all hardware and content. The government would enforce the use of this standard.

The bill asks the Federal Communication Commission to ensure that the new security standard will be reliable, renewable, resistant to attack, applicable to multiple technology platforms, modular, extensible, upgradeable, and not cost-prohibitive.

Individuals who remove or alter a copying-prevention device could receive fines ranging between $200 and $2,500 per incident.

The bill also states that the content-protection measure should allow individuals “to engage in legitimate use of digital content for educational or research purposes” and should take into account the fair-use doctrine. But some observers question whether this would be possible.

“The technology is not going to distinguish who has fair use of certain content,” Nisbett said. “Whether you’re a librarian or a criminal, the technology doesn’t know the difference.”

Fair use currently allows educators to show portions of copyright-protected material in the classroom without having to get permission from the copyright holder. Nisbett speculated that whatever content-protection measure arises from the bill might be set up so a DVD, for example, could be played on only one machine, or only a certain number of times, or would expire after a year.

“The technology is going to tell you how you are going to use [the content], instead of the other way around,” Nisbett said.

Education groups aren’t the bill’s only critics. In a March 14 statement about protecting digital copyrights, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., described the move to force the development of a technological solution through legislation as “wrong-headed.”

“A government-mandated technical standard may produce a one-size-fits-all technology that might not suit the purposes of all content owners and [might] end up stifling innovative new technologies and implementations,” Leahy said.

The consumer electronics industry also opposes the bill. Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, called it “misdirected legislation that would introduce new, onerous government mandates on the IT sector and consumers.”

Links:

Thomas: Legislative information on the internet

Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C.

American Library Association

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Information Technology Association of America

tags

Microsoft explores new game-based learning environment

With the intention of revolutionizing current pedagogy, Microsoft Corp. is bringing researchers and businesses together to develop a game-based computer learning environment to be used by classroom teachers.

The idea behind this partnership—known as the Learning Federation—is to take the same video-game technology that lets you virtually fly airplanes or build amusement parks, and use it for educational purposes.

“There’s a very strong attraction to video games, and it crosses age and … culture,” said Randy Hinrichs, group research manager for learning and science technology at Microsoft and principal founder of the Learning Federation.

So, Hinrichs figures, why not use this attraction to engage students in learning activities?

The Learning Federation plans to make “significant investments” to do just that, but Hinrichs estimates it will be at least five years before the group is finished.

Currently, the federation is recruiting members to participate before it starts funding any research projects. Corporations are invited to join for $100,000 each.

Microsoft, however, has already teamed up with several academic partners, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to build some prototypes. MIT’s Games to Teach Project is Microsoft’s largest, long-term current investment, funded at approximately half a million dollars a year.

MIT already has produced a few prototypes. Hinrichs has been demonstrating them at conferences to get feedback from educators.

One CD focuses on a bio-hazard attack in a city and how an emergency team would respond. Another CD explores engineering principles as students have to rebuild the world on another planet after Earth is evacuated. A third one has students build houses in unusual places, such as under the ocean or suspended in air.

As in popular computer games, students can use different “virtual” tools, like a crane, to help complete their quest. They can also consult virtual experts to give them pointers.

Microsoft is developing this “next-generation learning environment” in the research arena because this eliminates profitability pressures, Hinrichs said. If researchers build a prototype and it doesn’t work, they can just throw it away without much harm done, he said.

Also, Hinrichs hopes educators will adopt this learning tool more readily if it is developed by researchers rather than a corporation like Microsoft. “If MIT can’t build it, then who can?” he said.

Microsoft is also funding similar projects at Brown University, Georgia Tech, and the University of Southern California.

Other independent research projects also exist in this field. With a $1 million National Science Foundation grant, representatives from Nobel Learning Communities, Harvard University, George Mason University, and the Smithsonian Institution have worked together to determine what impact—if any—the gaming environment has on learning. For this project, researchers built a computer-based bicycle simulation that incorporated historical content from the Smithsonian. (See http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=2848 for more information.)

Microsoft will leverage the expertise of its Xbox and Microsoft Games groups to help develop its own game-based learning environment. Xbox, which debuted in February, is Microsoft’s new video-game machine, which challenges similar products from Sony and Nintendo.

“We’ve got the tools and the platform and the know-how,” Hinrichs said.

The game-based learning environment that Microsoft hopes to create will have assessment tools and digital student portfolios embedded inside. It will enable students to collaborate on projects and learn by doing.

Hinrichs said Microsoft’s dream is to build a component like Xbox to put in schools. It would be a plug-and-play technology that teachers could use to customize and build their own lessons.

“The idea is to get it down to … where teachers could get the components and build their own models,” Hinrichs said. “Microsoft is always about enabling. We are not going to build the content. We are just going to build the platform.”

To implement a game-based learning environment, educational pedagogy must change, Hinrichs said.

Gaming best suits the instructivist teaching method, he said, because students can use video-game technology to do expensive, inconceivable things virtually—like explore the human body. “It allows you to involve yourself in activities. You don’t just read, you do stuff,” Hinrichs said. “You’ve got people engaged deeply.”

Kids will start demanding the same kind of engagement and stimulation in the classroom that they get from television, the internet, movies, and video games, Hinrichs said. “What are you going to do when these kids show up?” he asked rhetorically.

But trying to adapt gaming technologies for learning poses some challenges.

Video games have limitations that need to be overcome before this environment will be suitable for education, Hinrichs said. Each movement and possible outcome in a game requires a great deal of programming. The ideal learning environment would have to support an infinite number of outcomes, he said.

Researchers also have to figure out how to incorporate all the intricacies of the learning process. And, getting accredited by the education community is a “political obstacle” that Microsoft’s initiative will face down the road.

“We are going to have to do this by exemplar,” Hinrichs said.

Links:

The Learning Federation Consortium
http://www.thelearningfederation.org

MIT’s Games to Teach
http://cms.mit.edu/games/education/proto.html

Company search “Microsoft” at http://www.eschoolnews.org/buyersguide

tags

Wireless technology helps make Maine governor’s vision a reality

Students learning how to use their new laptop computers at Auburn Middle School in Auburn, Maine, can surf the internet and exchange eMail without tripping over network cables or power cords.

Fast-growing wireless technology means there is no spaghetti-like jumble of cables in the classrooms here. More importantly, the technology is making possible Gov. Angus King’s vision of a computer on the lap of all seventh- and eighth-graders, because it’s so much cheaper than running wires through schools.

The same wireless technology that keeps people connected on Palm Pilots and lets a family surf the net on the porch will allow students to stay connected in class, in the lunchroom, and even outside on the basketball court.

Without it, the Maine project, which already carries a price tag of more than $30 million, would have been too expensive to fathom, officials said.

In Guilford, which received laptop computers two years ago independent of the current initiative, it would have taken 25 ethernet jacks in each of the 23 classrooms to achieve the same thing as wireless technology. That could have cost upward of $50,000, if electricians did the work.

With 239 middle schools statewide, that could have added $10 million or so to the overall laptop price tag.

In Guilford, doing it without wires cost the school only $4,000, said Crystal Priest, technology coordinator.

“We could never have wired this place. We couldn’t afford it,” Apple executive Bob Trikakis said as he surveyed the Auburn Middle School lunchroom as teachers received training on how to use their laptops.

Each Apple iBook to be assigned to seventh- and eighth-grade students has a built-in antenna that communicates with a base station, or “Airport,” 32 of which are installed in Auburn Middle School.

Each base station, which can accommodate the signals of dozens of laptops at a time, is hard-wired to a network already in place inside the school. The incoming internet line is connected to the system.

It’s not exactly a new technology. Several college and K-12 campuses have been doing the same thing since the late 1990s.

But the price has been falling since then, making it a far cheaper alternative to running wires into classrooms.

In West Virginia, the $24 million Robert C. Byrd High School opened in 1996 with the latest technology, which meant it was hard-wired for hundreds of computers. In all, there were 800 cable “drops” for computers, and the number has grown to 1,000 today.

Each drop certified by an installer costs $100 to $125, meaning up to $100,000 or more in wiring costs.

If the school had to do it over again, it would not have installed so many drops, but decisions were made on the best information at the time, said Chester Hall, technology director at the school in Clarksburg, W.Va.

“What we put in at the time was a type of technology that was the latest and the greatest,” Hall said.

At Auburn, and eight other demonstration schools, there are fewer wires and fewer costs thanks to wireless technology. But just as important, educators say, is the freedom for students to be mobile.

Gone are the days when students went to the computer lab. Now students take the computer lab with them, said Principal Kathi Cutler.

The laptops are stored in lockers equipped with power outlets. Students will collect them during their first class and carry them throughout the day, Cutler said. The laptops will be recharged during lunch.

During breaks, students can trade eMail messages or do personal work on their computers. Eventually, they may be allowed to take them home like a library book—but that decision is up to the individual school districts.

Next fall, the laptops will be distributed to all seventh-graders at public schools in Maine, and both seventh- and eighth-graders will have them in 2002. In all, 33,000 middle school students and 3,000 teachers will get them.

Geography teacher Steve Williams said the laptops will be a great asset. Currently, he has one old Macintosh in the classroom, and students have to gather around when he uses it in class.

In a fast-changing world, the 1990 textbook students use is already outdated but the internet is always current, he said.

But the impact of the technology goes far beyond geography and far beyond Auburn Middle School, Williams said.

“I’m a 30-year teacher, and this is going to put every kid on a level playing field. Now every kid is going to have the advantage of having a computer,” Williams said.

Links:

Maine Learning Technology Initiative
http://www.state.me.us/mlte

Auburn Middle School
http://www.auburnschl.edu/users/jrowe/Homepage

Apple Computer Inc.
http://www.apple.com

tags

SLD: Few schools will see Year Five eRate funds for internal connections

The bulk of Year Five eRate applicants hoping to get money to wire their schools won’t receive funding for internal connections, according to program officials. In fact, because of the extraordinarily high demand for discounts this year, there won’t even be enough money to fund all requests at the 90-percent discount level.

The nation’s schools and libraries have asked for a record $5.736 billion in eRate discounts for Year Five, nearly $550 million more than last year’s total and more than double the $2.25 billion available.

The eRate, part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, derives its funding from the universal service charge on telephone bills. The program is intended to help needy and rural schools pay for telephone service, internet access, and internal wiring.

This is the third consecutive year that the demand for eRate funds has surpassed the amount allotted by the Federal Communication Commission. Last year, applicants requested an unprecedented $5.19 billion total, an amount greater than the first two program years combined.

The Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Co., the group that administers the eRate, received 36,043 applications by Jan. 17, the close of the Form 471 application filing window.

The eRate funds all requests for telecommunications service and internet access—so-called Priority One services—first. Then, any leftover funds are allocated for internal connections, starting with the neediest schools and libraries.

The estimated demand for telecommunications service and internet access this year is $1.817 billion, leaving only $433 million to pay for internal connections. The demand for internal connections at the neediest level—the 90-percent discount level—is $2.619 billion.

Under current program rules, each 90-percent discount school would get only a small portion of the funds it requested for internal connections this year—in this case, about 17 percent, if current estimates of the demand hold true.

tags

High-speed internet access spreading, though slowly

A study released in February 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.

Related 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

tags

Make a map of the night sky using “Sky Chart”

Stargazing just got a whole lot more fun with the advent of this web site. Now, you can look up at the stars and actually know which constellation you’re looking at. Available at the new Sky & Telescope magazine web site, the interactive Sky Chart simulates a naked-eye view of the sky from any location on Earth, at any time of day or night, on any date from 1600 to 2400. Sky Chart links an extensive database of celestial objects and geographic locations. Users simply enter their city and country location and their time zone to view an enlargeable and printable map of the sky visible in their neighborhood that night. “It’s like having your own personalized planetarium,” notes Alen Yen, president and creative director of Interactive Factory, designers of the Sky Chart. Sky & Telescope has been a source of information for current and aspiring astronomy practitioners worldwide since 1941. In addition to the Sky Chart, the new Sky & Telescope web site incorporates a personalized almanac, searchable magazine archives, enhanced store, and expanded content.

http://skyandtelescope.com/observing/skychart

tags