Protect your network–and your student’s–with NetDay’s “CyberSecurty Kit”

While computer security experts and public policy makers debate the merits of a White House panel’s proposed national cyber security plan, the nonprofit group NetDay has developed and released its own Cyber Security Kit for Schools.

The online kit is designed to create awareness among K-12 educators, administrators, parents, and other stakeholders about many of the dangers that lurk online.

The site contains a guide called “What Every Administrator Needs to know About Cyber Security.” The online guide includes practical suggestions and resources for ensuring that school computers are safe against online attacks.

Another feature, “Computer-Savvy Families: A Story about Cyber Security for Children.” includes a narrative written by a fourth-grade teacher, which stresses the danger of online predators to children.

Other resources include links to news, articles, and editorials addressing the delicate balance that exists between network security and internet freedom; an “action plan” for securing desktop computers from intrusion; and a list of cyber security and online safety web sites.

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Protect your network–and your student’s–with NetDay’s “CyberSecurty Kit”

While computer security experts and public policy makers debate the merits of a White House panel’s proposed national cyber security plan, the nonprofit group NetDay has developed and released its own Cyber Security Kit for Schools.

The online kit is designed to create awareness among K-12 educators, administrators, parents, and other stakeholders about many of the dangers that lurk online.

The site contains a guide called “What Every Administrator Needs to know About Cyber Security.” The online guide includes practical suggestions and resources for ensuring that school computers are safe against online attacks.

Another feature, “Computer-Savvy Families: A Story about Cyber Security for Children.” includes a narrative written by a fourth-grade teacher, which stresses the danger of online predators to children.

Other resources include links to news, articles, and editorials addressing the delicate balance that exists between network security and internet freedom; an “action plan” for securing desktop computers from intrusion; and a list of cyber security and online safety web sites.

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Protect your network–and your student’s–with NetDay’s “CyberSecurty Kit”

While computer security experts and public policy makers debate the merits of a White House panel’s proposed national cyber security plan, the nonprofit group NetDay has developed and released its own Cyber Security Kit for Schools.

The online kit is designed to create awareness among K-12 educators, administrators, parents, and other stakeholders about many of the dangers that lurk online.

The site contains a guide called “What Every Administrator Needs to know About Cyber Security.” The online guide includes practical suggestions and resources for ensuring that school computers are safe against online attacks.

Another feature, “Computer-Savvy Families: A Story about Cyber Security for Children.” includes a narrative written by a fourth-grade teacher, which stresses the danger of online predators to children.

Other resources include links to news, articles, and editorials addressing the delicate balance that exists between network security and internet freedom; an “action plan” for securing desktop computers from intrusion; and a list of cyber security and online safety web sites.

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Free-speech groups sound off on CIPA in schools

With a victory in the public libraries behind them, anti-censorship activists joined with parents, teachers, and students Sept. 18 in a move to beat back the imposition of federally mandated web filters in schools.

The nationwide “speak-out” served as a rallying point for anti-censorship organizations—including the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and National Coalition Against Censorship—to sound off against the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). The law that requires all schools receiving eRate funds to use “technology protection measures” to keep kids from accessing inappropriate material online.

Although the event, which took place simultaneously in Boston, New York, and San Francisco, did not introduce any formal lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of CIPA in schools, it did encourage a national student letter-writing campaign, which organizers hope will increase public scrutiny of the act and pressure lawmakers to adopt new policies for safe, effective internet use in schools.

CIPA detractors claim that school-imposed web filters inadvertently block access to educational sites, making it virtually impossible for teachers to use professional discretion when deciding what content to allow in the classroom.

Marjorie Heins, director of the Free Expression Policy Project, called the law “outrageous,” saying it’s inconceivable the federal government should ask teachers to give up their professional discretion in favor of filtering products designed by companies that are far removed from students and their instructional needs.

Several educators agreed with Heins. These needs, they said, go unfulfilled because web filters often operate by singling out certain words—including “rape,” “terrorism,” and “anarchy”—which might or might not be used in an inappropriate fashion.

For instance, in one New York City school, students were blocked from accessing information related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks because the filtering system there inadvertently identified the word “terrorism” as dangerous and offensive to students, said John Elfrank, a social studies teacher with the city’s school system.

David Burt, public relations manager for N2H2 Inc., which makes one of the most widely used filtering products in schools, said a lot more goes into choosing blocked sites than simply red-flagging certain words for detection. Burt said N2H2’s filter does not block solely on the recognition of a potentially harmful word, but rather looks for such indicators as adult warnings, pornographic content, and specific tags in web addresses commonly associated with lewd or inappropriate content. Like most other filtering companies, N2H2 also uses human reviewers to check red-flagged sites to make sure they are not blocked inadvertently.

But critics of filtering software argue there is no way a team of employees can keep up with the thousands of new sites on the internet each day, and mistakes are inevitable. The Free Expression Policy Project has compiled a list of hundreds of inappropriately blocked sites as reported by educators and has included this list in “Internet Filters: A Public Policy Report,” which is available on the organization’s web site.

Another organization, Peacefire.org, established in 1996 to protect the free-speech rights of children under 18 on the internet, highlights a new inadvertently blocked site every week. One example: the 19th-century classic Jane Eyre, which Peacefire claims is blocked by Symantec Corp.’s I-Gear filter when accessed through the archives at Carnegie Mellon University.

Despite the frustrations of some, many educators contend filters are necessary for keeping children safe online while at school.

“I definitely think filtering is necessary,” said Carlos de Sousa, network manager for the Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School in Haverhill, Mass. “I deal with kids every day, and I know that the temptation is great to seek out that kind of stuff. We’re not talking lace and lingerie, either, but real, hard-core pornography.”

Links:

“Internet Filters: A Public Policy Report”
http://www.fepproject.org/issues/filteringreports.html#BESS

New York City Department of Education
http://www.nycenet.edu

Peacefire.org
http://www.peacefire.org

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Feds: Schools could save $1.5 billion in energy costs

Without an act of Congress or a single tax levy, our schools could get $1.5 billion in brand-new funding, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That’s the amount of money the department estimates schools are spending on unnecessary energy costs.

Some enterprising school systems are striving to put a damper on their excess energy bills, and they’re taking clever steps to save energy—from replacing inefficient computers and other appliances to installing fuel cells and solar panels.

The average California school spends about $180 per student each year on energy and only about $150 per student for books, according to Daryl Mills, a supervisor at the California Energy Commission.

To successfully correct that imbalance will take focus and dedication. That’s why, at the Rio Linda Union School District in Sacramento, Calif., Resource Conservation Manager Tim Bond has just one job: Save money.

Since starting last year, Bond reportedly has helped the district reduce its $1.1 million energy costs by more than 10 percent.

"Fifty percent of the savings can come from just getting teachers and students to change their behavior on a day-to-day basis," Bond said.

He’s also replaced inefficient appliances and computers, installed heat-saving windows, and popped in more than 7,800 low-watt light bulbs.

Bond is working with the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District, which has agreed to pay his salary for two years. After that, the 24-school district will use energy savings to pay him.

Schools across California and the nation are taking advantage of several state and federal programs to make their schools more energy efficient, using projected savings to pay for the conservation projects.

Although such programs have been around for years, many schools have redoubled their efforts to reduce energy costs since California’s 2001 energy crisis, when the state’s wholesale electricity prices skyrocketed.

California’s two main energy conservation initiatives, the Bright Schools and the High Performance Schools programs, provide design consultation; help identify cost-effective, energy-saving measures; and provide low-interest loans to outfit schools. Starting this fall, for instance, California school districts have been able to get a rebate of up to 90 percent for installing solar panels.

"A lot of the programs grew from the energy crisis," Mills said "And interest in the programs has increased dramatically. We spent about $10 million a year in loans before, and last year we did about $65 million."

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the energy bill for schools across the nation tops $6 billion—about 25 percent more than necessary.

At least a dozen California school districts, including the Los Angeles Unified School District and the West Contra Costa School District, are participating in the federal EnergySmart Schools program.

The program intends to reduce schools’ energy costs while increasing their use of clean-energy technologies. Participating schools receive information about improving temperature control and indoor air quality through the use of new energy-saving technologies, such as energy-efficient lighting systems and geothermal heating and cooling systems.

Schools also can finance energy-conservation projects through private companies and pay off loans from projected savings.

The Cape Cod Community College in Massachusetts, for example, recently worked with Noresco, a national energy service company, to complete a $1.3 million campus improvement project. It included installation of a clean-burning fuel cell that provides electricity and warms the library using heat that otherwise would dissipate.

"Technically, [the improvement project] doesn’t cost us any money, and it doesn’t cost the taxpayers any money," said Robert Cleghorn, the school’s director of environmental health and safety, explaining that energy savings match or exceed the program’s costs.

Links:

California Energy Commission
http://www.energy.ca.gov

EnergySmart Schools program
http://www.eren.doe.gov/energysmartschools

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Best Practice: Challenger centers motivate students to excel in science

The Colorado Springs, Colo., eighth-graders stared intently at their manuals, confident they would complete their mission. But this was no ordinary school assignment: During a recent visit to the city’s new Challenger Learning Center, the students used their math, science, and communications skills to successfully probe a comet.

Programs at the center are designed to increase student interest in science, engineering, and technology. The center targets middle school students because they are at the age where they begin to choose their career focus.

The students—half of them boys and half girls—were the first to try the “Rendezvous with Comet Encke” space mission at the center.

Organizers said the program motivates students to excel in science. Girls, particularly those of middle school age, often start disconnecting from math and science, which also prompted organizers to target the age group.

Nancy Rauenzahn, one of two teachers working as a commander at the center, said few programs are this successful at engaging both genders.

“If you hook the girls, the boys are there automatically,” Rauenzahn said. “The program works elaborately on communication skills for all students.”

The educational intent of the program seems to be rubbing off. “I don’t really like science usually, but this is really interesting,” said Mindy Quintana, 13. “I like how it feels so realistic.”

Students work together in jobs such as communications, navigation, and life support during a simulated Space Shuttle mission. Crises often arise that require the teams to work quickly and communicate solutions or be forced to abort the mission.

Quintana, who was in charge of radioing messages for her group, said she would be much more interested in science if she could do activities like those at the Challenger Learning Center more often.

The center has rooms that look like the Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and the International Space Station. There is also a briefing room for students.

Colorado Springs is home to one of 45 Challenger Learning Centers in the United States.

Nearly $2 million in grants, donations, and some state funds helped build the center, which is next to Challenger Middle School. The center is open to students throughout the West, but most mission sessions are booked for this year.

Links:

Challenger Center for Space Science Education
http://www.challenger.org

Challenger Learning Center of Colorado Springs
http://www.clccs.org

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“Justice Learning” gives students a first-hand look at democracy in action

The New York Times and National Public Radio have joined forces to create Justice Learning, a civics education web site for high school students and teachers based on NPR’s radio program, “Justice Talking.” The web site uses audio content from “Justice Talking” and related lesson plans and articles from The New York Times Learning Network, a free service for teachers, parents, and students in grades three to 12, to engage students in informed political discourse. Justice Learning is designed around eight distinct civics issues, each updated twice a year. Current issues include affirmative action, civil liberties, the death penalty, gun control, juvenile justice, and web censorship. The project “brings news issues to life for its audience,” says Gary Kalman, communications director of “Justice Talking.” Through articles, editorials, and oral debate from some of the nation’s leading journalists, Justice Learning challenges students to think about the often-conflicting values of America, while learning how each of democracy’s institutions—Congress, the courts, the presidency, the press, and schools—shapes and impacts the issues of our times.

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Cheryl Vedoe leaves Apple for Apex Learning

Cheryl Vedoe, the former head of Apple Computer’s Power School unit, has left the company to become chief executive officer for Apex Learning, a provider of online courses and instructional materials for high school students.

In an interview with eSchool News, Vedoe said she was enthusiastic about her role at Apex and was looking forward to leading the rapidly growing company to new heights in the ed-tech marketplace.

“Education has really only scratched the surface as far as the potential that is out there with technology,” she said. “I think there is a tremendous opportunity for educational technology to have an influential effect on student outcomes.”

Vedoe said she hopes to improve upon those outcomes by building on the products and services that have been—and continue to be—key to Apex’s business model. Among these services are ClassTools, a combination of online lessons, exercises, and activities to help strengthen educators’ teaching portfolios; Evaluation Tools, which give teachers the means to assess student progress in a given topic by way of computer assessments; and a growing library of online advanced-placement courses, which Vedoe says gives students with limited course diversification a whole new avenue for exploring their educations.

Still getting comfortable in her new role at Apex, Vedoe said she would prefer to focus on familiarizing herself with the company at present before commenting on her goals and visions for its future.

While looking forward to her new role at Apex, Vedoe refused to comment on her reasons for leaving Apple or the current state of the company’s PowerSchool operations. In September, Think Secret, an online news source for inside information at Apple, reported that the company was displeased with the Enterprise version of its PowerSchool student information system and was reevaluating its plans.

A 25-year veteran of the education and technology industries, Vedoe had been Apple’s vice president of education marketing until June, when she was shifted over to the company’s PowerSchool division. An Apple spokesman declined to comment on her departure.

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Model exemplary teaching practices with the “Digital Edge Learning Interchange”

In August 2001, eSchool News reported that the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the International Society for Technology in Education, and Apple Computer—with funding from the AT&T Foundation—had launched a project to create an online library of videos showcasing best practices for teaching with technology. Based on two sets of nationally recognized standards, the videos are intended to help both current and aspiring teachers use technology in the classroom more effectively. Now, the fruits of this labor are ready for schools’ consumption. Teachers can turn to this site for access to online “exhibits” submitted by National Board Certified Teachers who have participated in the program. Each free exhibit contains a number of professional development resources and suggestions for teachers, including lesson plans, video clips, examples of student work, assessment tools, and teacher-student reflections, enabling teachers to learn from the best as they strive to integrate technology into their own curricula.

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Bone up on the latest reading research with “The Partnership for Reading”

From the National Institute for Literacy, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the U.S. Department of Education comes The Partnership for Reading, a collaborative effort intended to provide educators with the findings of evidence-based reading research. Educators, parents, and other stakeholders can use this site as a point of reference to research key approaches such as phonics, fluency, vocabulary comprehension, and phonemic awareness. Other resources include suggestions for how to integrate technology into the reading curriculum, as well as links to continuing teacher education. For background, educators have access to the partnership’s criteria for improved reading instruction, including its definition of reading, its research stipulations, and its main principles. The site also provides access to a massive database of reading research materials separated by subject and skill emphasized, as well as recommended resources for continued research and frequently asked questions. The partnership also plans to add an online discussion forum for educators; however, this phase is still under construction.

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