Tap into this CoSN toolkit for “Promoting Online Safety”

The Consortium for School Networking has released new resources to help guide school leaders when they talk to parents and other community members about online safety issues. Sponsored by the BellSouth Foundation, the AOL Time Warner Foundation, Microsoft Corp., and Sprint Corp., the “Promoting Online Safety” toolkit was created with the understanding that schools need to be proactive in communicating with parents and other community members about their online safety strategies—and parents need to understand the steps they can take to make sure their children use their home computer in a safe and appropriate manner. The toolkit components include a handbook, called “Promoting Online Safety: The Home-School Partnership,” designed to help school leaders develop the message they want to convey to parents and community members, based on their local circumstances; a 10-minute video that highlights the experiences of two school districts, one in Pennsylvania and one in Kansas, as they worked through questions surrounding the best ways to protect students when they go online; and a presentation to help school leaders explain to parents and community leaders the steps their schools are taking to protect children online. School leaders can download the handbook and presentation at no charge from the project’s web site.


There’s no debating the value of this site for history teachers

The 1960 presidential debates between former presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon marked the first time television played a decisive role in the outcome of a national political contest—but it would not be the last. Now, students have an opportunity to go back in time and witness the most historic and influential presidential debates of the television era. Sponsored in part by the History Channel, “The History of Televised Presidential Debates” provides a timeline of every televised presidential debate since 1960. Special features let students watch a documentary about the Kennedy-Nixon contest, read political commentary about the debate, and even watch the debate itself. Students also can look at essays on the use of television in politics, view archived interviews with media professionals, check out television viewing and voting statistics, and even read a 1959 article written by Kennedy about the role television plays in running a national campaign. Plus, teachers have access to several curriculum resources, including sample lesson plans, activities, a glossary of terms, and more.


Product Spotlight

Get reading resources from A to Z with this new Kaplan program

To help schools meet the literacy demands of the No Child Left Behind Act, Kaplan Inc.’s K12 Learning Services division and Canadian software firm AutoSkill International have teamed up to launch Kaplan Reading Empowerment, a software-based literacy intervention program for K-12 schools.

Kaplan Reading Empowerment is an individualized, self-paced program tailored to students’ needs. More than just a piece of software, the program also provides teachers with the training and support they need to integrate the program into their daily instruction and monitor student progress effectively.

Kaplan K12 educators collaborate with district and school staff to define goals and develop a broad reading intervention plan using AutoSkill’s Academy of Reading software. The software identifies specific learning requirements of individual students and creates customized courses of study. Through the software’s database-driven management functions, teachers are able to oversee and track student progress. Throughout the program, Kaplan K12 provides a wide range of implementation services, including project management, professional development workshops, ongoing progress reporting, and follow-up meetings to review student results.

Prices for the program range from about $15,000 to $28,000, depending on the number of students and schools that are using it. (888) 527-5268 http://www.kaplank12.com

Take control of internet use with this network monitoring software

Instead of merely blocking access to inappropriate web sites, a new network management tool from Security Software Systems Inc. of Illinois, called Policy Central, monitors internet use according to a school’s acceptable use policy (AUP).

Policy Central displays your school’s AUP before students and employees can access specified applications. After accepting the terms of the policy, should a user violate these terms, Policy Central will take a screen capture of the individual’s inappropriate computer use. It also will log the violation by user, date, time, and application.

School network administrators can monitor students’ computer use for pornographic or sexually explicit content right out of the box with Policy Central’s built-in library of keywords. The software also allows you to customize which words and phrases are inappropriate with a user-definable library, and it helps you analyze the effectiveness of your AUP with a variety of reports.

Rather than “snooping” on all user activity, Policy Central will only monitor and report those activities that violate your AUP, according to the company. Because students and employees are aware of your AUP, the software places the responsibility squarely on their shoulders if they choose to violate this policy. (888) 835-7278 http://www.securitysoft.com

Project Macintosh content to a TV screen with this plug-and-play device

FOCUS Enhancements Inc., which specializes in video production and conversion technology, has created a a desktop-to-video output solution designed specifically for Apple’s iMac and eMac computers.

iTView Mac allows computer content from an iMac or eMac machine—such as DVD movies, the internet, or classroom presentations—to be displayed on any TV monitor so the whole class can see. “We created the iTView Mac to provide Mac users with the best TV-out image possible,” said Jason Overhulse, consumer product manager for FOCUS Enhancements.

iTView Mac automatically detects computer resolutions up to 1,024 pixels by 768 pixels and synchronizes them with television, resulting in a high-quality, flicker-free image. It also lets users record directly from their iMac or eMac to a VCR. The device’s software interface allows users to control image adjustments such as size, pan, position, zoom, sharpness, brightness, and color.

The suggested retail price of iTView Mac is $139. (408) 866-8300 http://www.focusinfo.com

This CD-burning package is one hot item

From making your own DVD movies, to editing photos, to creating a video library, the Total Burn Platinum Suite from Broderbund Software—a division of Cambridge, Mass.-based Riverdeep Inc.—makes burning CDs and DVDs easy.

The suite consists of five software programs that focus on creating multimedia elements and burning them to CDs and DVDs. For CD or DVD burning, the suite includes NTI CD-Maker 5.5, which handles burning data, music, video, and photos. An application called MovieShop allows you to edit videos by adding transitions, special effects, music, or titles. For photo editing, the suite includes the Print Shop Photo Workshop, which features more than 1,500 project templates for creating albums, calendars, cards, and more. The remaining two components, Print Shop Label Creator and MediaShop, help you organize the discs and media you’ve created for easy access.

The suggested retail price for the Total Burn Platinum Suite is $99.99. (800) 223-6925 http://www.broderbund.com

Taking pictures of microscope slides is a snap with this digital camera

The M*Eye digital camera, from Ken-A-Vision, is a digital camera that can be used on or off a microscope. Students can use the device to document their experiment in progress or to capture the intricate details of microscopic slides to use in their science reports.

The camera can hold between 20 and 220 photos at a time and connects to a computer through a USB port. It can take pictures ranging from basic, JPEG-sized images to photo-quality, 1.3-megapixel images.

For $549, the M*Eye comes with a 28-millimeter microscope adapter, a USB cable, a CD ROM with software for sharing and editing photos, a carrying case, and four AAA batteries. When connected to a computer, the camera uses power from the computer. Optional accessories include a 34-millimeter eyepiece adapter, a USB-integrated flexible stand for hands-free operation, and a USB extension cable. (800) 501-7366 http://www.ken-a-vision.com

QuickMind launches a new instructional web portal

Sunburst Technology and QuickMind Inc., a new ed-tech firm with offices in the United States and Russia, has developed a subscription-based web portal that offers schools a wealth of standards-based content for K-12 instruction, as well as interactive software tools for generating projects that teachers and students can access at school or home.

Called QuickMind.net, the product features curriculum materials, interactive homework assignments, project templates, lesson plans, reference materials, and online professional development activities, all accessible through a password-protected web site.

Using the Project Generators tool, teachers easily can create activities and lesson plans with their own content or choose from hundreds of existing ones. This tool also helps teachers create tests, quizzes, work sheets, web projects, multimedia presentations, word searches, or crossword puzzles in a few simple steps. As students complete their assignments, their scores and time on task is recorded and automatically reported to the teacher.

The site’s Reference Center contains pre-screened web resources, such as the World Book Encyclopedia, maps, and news sites, that can be integrated into lessons. In addition, QuickMind.net provides an online word processor and presentation software (complete with thousands of curriculum-related clip art pieces, fonts, and templates), as well as animated, interactive lessons—available in English and Spanish—that reinforce key math, language arts, and science concepts. During these interactive lessons, teachers can monitor their students’ progress in real time and send instant messages, even if the student is logged on from home.

QuickMind.net is available through an annual subscription that allows teachers and students to access the site from school or home computers as much as they want. Licenses are based on a classroom, school building, or district. A license for one to three classrooms costs $1,200 per year, and an entire building license costs $5,500. (800) 624-2962 http://www.quickmind.net


Viewpoint: Overcoming the ‘achievement paradox’

Technology has a rich history for serving as a catalyst to revolutionize industries and change organizations. It challenges institutions to rethink old assumptions while exploring new ideas, innovations, and solutions. While this change eventually takes place, it does so only after a period in which questions raised by the technological innovations are addressed.

For instance, in the early 1980s Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Solow noted, “We can see computers everywhere [in business] except in the productivity statistics.” Despite the promises of technology advocates and the large amounts of capital that industries were pouring into computers and information technology (IT), many economists were not seeing a payoff in productivity. This phenomenon became known as the “productivity paradox.”

One explanation for this paradox was that many companies were automating their old ways of doing business and, as a result, only achieved small improvements in their efficiency. Productivity did not increase, because business processes were not reengineered to accommodate the new benefits and opportunities offered by technology. What businesses learned was that for technology to improve their productivity, they needed to rethink the way they did business as a result of technology-enabled processes.

The same holds true in education. The education community is going through its own unique “achievement paradox”: Despite their significant investment in technology, schools have struggled to show the meaningful academic improvement promised by technology advocates.

As with business, one reason for the lack of significant improvement is that school districts simply are automating traditional instructional processes instead of inventing new methods of delivering instruction. For example, teachers are using computer presentation tools in place of a blackboard. A student may use a computer that cycles through spelling words instead of paper flashcards. Instead of typing classes, students attend keyboarding classes. In each case, the instructional process has not fundamentally changed. Twenty-first century technology is simply placed on top of old instructional methodologies.

How are businesses breaking out of the productivity paradox? A recent report from the University of California at Irvine’s Center for Research on Information Technology and Organizations, entitled “The Productivity Paradox: Is it Resolved? Is There a New One? What Does It All Mean for Managers?,” provided several suggestions:

  • The No. 1 priority for managers should be restructuring their organizations and implementing effective management practices. In such environments, IT investments are likely to be most productive.
  • Aligning IT investments with business strategy is critical to success.
  • Managers should promote education and learn about the organizational practices that enhance the returns from IT investments and decrease the likelihood of failed investments.
  • Organizations must develop internal methods to measure returns on IT projects and to learn from their successes and failures in order to reduce risk and improve performance in the future.

Again, there are lessons here for the education community:

Rethink instructional processes and educational structures.

Technology is only as effective as the instructional process it accompanies. Instructional practices must be redesigned based on what research tells us is the best way children learn various facts and skills, and these processes must reflect what technology allows students to do that otherwise would be impossible.

Technology is also challenging us to rethink how we organize and structure education as a whole. The charter school movement is providing a number of experiments using different public school settings, instructional methodologies, and organizational structures to break out of the traditional educational mold. Not surprisingly, many charter schools are being designed around the opportunities and flexibilities afforded by technology. Through its Small High School initiative, for example, the Gates Foundation is exploring examples of how an education system can be reconceptualized and transformed.

Align technology with educational challenges, goals, and instructional strategies.

The integration of technology into the curriculum is still far more often claimed than experienced in America’s classrooms. For technology to support instruction and learning, it first must be aligned with specific educational goals and instructional strategies. The first step of any technology project must be to identify the educational outcome technology is intended to provide. What challenge is technology supposed to help overcome? What is it that you want your students to be able to do or achieve as a result of using a specific piece of technology? How will the use of technology support instruction?

Invest in professional development.

Businesses learned that simply equipping employees with state-of-the-art computers and software systems did nothing to produce results without ample training in how to use these tools. Educators also must receive professional development before they can use available technology tools effectively in their instruction. This professional development should reflect the lessons learned from evaluation and should be an ongoing effort, not a one-time event at the beginning of the year.

Invest in rigorous evaluations.

Most technologies are piloted before they are deployed throughout a district. These pilot programs must include rigorous evaluations to help gauge the effectiveness of the technology solution and also inform teaching practice. Every successful or failed technology implementation has lessons that can help guide future projects. Use this information to justify future expenditures, guide implementation, influence professional development, and inform future decisions regarding technology’s role in supporting student achievement.

It is important to underscore that these principles are found throughout President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Within the legislation are programs to invest in more professional development for teachers; rigorous, scientifically based research to inform educational practice; expansion of new models of education through charter schools and virtual schools; and alignment of technology to educational goals, by allowing technology to be used as part of any of the law’s other educational programs. Through these focused efforts, we can break out of the achievement paradox that has plagued not only educational technology, but education in general.

Over time, the infusion of technology forces institutions to engage in systemic reform. Corporations are reinventing themselves around the flexibility and new opportunities afforded by technology. School districts and classrooms will have to change as well. Instructional and administrative processes need to be reengineered to accommodate the efficiencies and improvements offered by the internet, curriculum software, and distance learning. Only then will true improvements be made that will lead to cost savings, time efficiencies, better informed decisions, more options for students, richer learning environments, improved instruction, and—most importantly—increased student achievement. The question no longer is how to use technology to do the same thing better. Now, the question is how to use technology to transform educational practices to reach new goals—as a catalyst for change and as a tool in creating, implementing, managing, and communicating a new concept of teaching and learning and a system that supports it.

The goal of NCLB and America’s education system is to help every child reach his or her full potential. When we help children reach their potential, America, too, will reach its full potential. Technology is one of many tools available to help us accomplish that goal.

John Bailey is the director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology.


Maine expands laptop access to poorer students’ homes

Thousands of Maine students will receive free home internet access for laptop computers assigned by their schools, thanks to about $5 million worth of cash and in-kind donations, departing Gov. Angus King announced Jan. 2.

King, the leading proponent of the first statewide program to provide a laptop computer for every middle school student, said he will “put my money where my mouth is” and contribute $100,000 of the total himself.

About 18,000 laptops were delivered in September to seventh-graders and teachers in 239 Maine schools, and another 18,000 will be delivered next year under the state’s three-year contract with Apple Computer.

About half of the schools let students take their computers home for research, but those without internet access are at a disadvantage, King said.

Internet access at home no longer will be an issue after this spring and next fall, however, when seventh- and eighth-graders who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches will become eligible for free home internet hookups. About 5,000 students will be covered.

“The laptops help to open vast new horizons for our students, and now they will no longer be limited to using these resources during the school day,” King said. “The only limit will be the student’s imagination and desire to learn.”

King, who left office Jan. 8, said the laptop program has proven to have a positive effect on course content, student interest, and discipline. “I am 100-percent more committed to it than I was a year ago,” he said. “Now we don’t have to argue whether it works. All you have to do is go and see it for yourself.”

Cash donations adding up to $850,000 will help to cover the costs of making the hookups. Besides King—a millionaire whose annual gubernatorial salary was $70,000—donors include the Lunder Foundation of Maine and San Francisco-based Osher Foundation, which are kicking in $375,000 each.

Verizon of Maine and Great Works Internet of Biddeford, Maine’s largest internet service provider, will allow the use of their systems to provide home service to eligible students. The University of Maine will be a partner in the system, helping to provide filtering and other support services.

Maine’s laptop initiative, first announced by King in March 2000 amid widespread skepticism by legislators and others, was designed as an endowment that would stand on its own after an initial $50 million outlay of public money.

But as state funds got more scarce, funding was scaled back, and the program now needs periodic legislative appropriations. Still, it has drawn international interest for its vision of making one-to-one computing a reality.


High Court’s ruling deals a blow to web publishers

In a defeat for internet publishers and others who wanted to make old creative works available online without paying high royalties, the Supreme Court on Jan. 15 upheld lengthier copyrights protecting the profits of songs, books, and even cartoon characters.

Hundreds of thousands of books, movies, and songs were close to being released into the public domain when Congress extended the copyright by 20 years in 1998.

In a 7-2 decision, justices said the copyright extension, named for the late Rep. Sonny Bono, R-Calif., was neither unconstitutional overreaching by Congress, nor a violation of constitutional free-speech rights. A contrary ruling would have cost entertainment giants like The Walt Disney Co. and AOL Time Warner Inc. hundreds of millions of dollars.

The ruling will affect movie studios and heirs of authors and composers. It also will affect small music publishers, orchestras, and even school bands and drama clubs that must pay royalties to perform some pieces.

The Bush administration defended the extension, telling the court that while justices may personally disagree with the latest extension, Congress had the authority to pass it.

Congress—which passed the copyright law after heavy lobbying from companies with lucrative copyrights—has repeatedly lengthened the terms of copyrights over the years. Copyrights lasted only 14 years in 1790. With the challenged 1998 extension, the period is now 70 years after the death of the creator. Works owned by corporations are now protected for 95 years.

Eric Eldred challenged the copyright extension, which he said unfairly limits what he can make available on a public web library he runs. “I was disappointed in the decision,” he said from his home in Derry, N.H. “It seems like it’s giving an open license to Congress to keep those works locked up perpetually.”

Eldred had started his web site in 1995 when his daughters were reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter in school. He decided to post the book on the internet with hyperlinks to allow students and other visitors to learn the definitions of unfamiliar words as they read.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer sharply disagreed with his colleagues.

“The serious public harm and the virtually nonexistent public benefit could not be more clear,” he wrote, adding that the limit on the use of information “threatens to interfere with efforts to preserve our nation’s historical and cultural heritage” and to educate children.


Industry rivals unveil new technologies for schools, consumers

The two biggest rivals in the computer industry, Apple Computer chief executive officer Steve Jobs and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, were at separate conferences touting new technologies Jan. 7. But while Microsoft’s latest technologies largely target the consumer electronics market, many of Apple’s newest announcements are aimed directly at educators.

At the annual Macworld Conference & Exposition in San Francisco, Jobs highlighted new products intended to further establish Apple as a leader in digital video editing solutions and wireless computing for schools.

Among the announcements: new presentation software intended to rival Microsoft’s PowerPoint program; a scaled-down version of Apple’s professional-grade video editing software; and a wireless hub that supports networking speeds up to five times faster than current versions.

The presentation software, called Keynote, combines ease of use, professional-looking themes, and the ability to splice in video clips and other multimedia elements to a greater extent than PowerPoint, according to Apple. Users reportedly can import existing PowerPoint, Adobe Photoshop, QuickTime, and other media files into Keynote, making it easy for students, teachers, administrators, or school board members to create engaging, multimedia presentations. Keynote is priced at $49 for education users.

Apple also introduced Final Cut Express, a lighter version of its professional-grade movie editing software, Final Cut Pro. Students and teachers can use this software to create professional-looking digital video projects. Although its $149 price tag might be too hefty for some schools, the software still marks a dramatic value over the Final Cut Pro version, which costs about $1,000.

Continuing the theme of multimedia creation tools, Jobs announced that Apple has redesigned its iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, and iDVD software programs so they work together seamlessly. The company has repackaged these upgraded programs into a software bundle called iLife.

Before, users had to import and export files between the programs. With iLife, that extra step is eliminated.

The newest version of iMovie also includes a feature called the “Ken Burns effect,” named after the documentary filmmaker who produced Public Broadcasting Service specials on the Civil War, baseball, and jazz. The feature lets users pan across a still photo, superimposing text or motion.

“You can send [movies] to your friends and family … that will blow their mind, that are better than what they can get out of Hollywood,” Jobs said to rounds of cheers from the crowd. iLife is priced at $39 for education customers.

Jobs also unveiled a faster wireless network system that takes advantage of new 802.11g technology. The AirPort Extreme offers network speeds of up to 54 megabits per second (Mbps), compared with the 11 Mbps users get with current 802.11b systems.

While others in the computer industry—most notably Intel Corp.—have been pushing 802.11a as a faster upgrade to today’s wireless technology, Apple is taking a different route by backing 802.11g, which is just as fast as 802.11a but also is compatible with 802.11b equipment.

The AirPort Extreme base station works with all existing 802.11b network cards, but only those with the new Extreme cards can take advantage of the faster speed. The device is priced at $179 for schools.

Featured announcement

The featured announcement at the Macworld Conference & Expo focused on two new versions of Apple’s PowerBook G4 laptop computer—the company’s largest and smallest laptops ever—that probably are priced beyond the means of most school systems.

A 17-inch PowerBook G4, which weighs 6.8 pounds and measures just 1 inch thick when folded, features a fiber-optic backlit keyboard and ambient light sensors that automatically adjust the keyboard depending on the brightness of a room. Apple began selling it for $3,299.

A 12-inch PowerBook G4, which weighs 4.6 pounds, went on sale in late January for $1,799. Both computers feature wireless connections that the company says will allow users to synchronize laptops with cell phones, handheld computers, or other Apple machines.

In addition, Jobs introduced a free new web browser, Safari, for Apple’s OS X operating system. The software can load pages up to 40 percent faster than Microsoft’s industry-leading Internet Explorer browser, according to Apple. Although it’s not aimed specifically at educators, the browser—assuming it works as well as Apple is touting—could prove useful for schools, where time is at a premium during 50-minute classes.

Finally, Apple is extending its offer of a free upgrade to Mac OS X for teachers. The deadline for taking advantage of the offer is now March 31. More than 300,000 teachers have requested this free upgrade so far, Apple said.

Educators contacted by eSchool News sounded impressed by Apple’s latest announcements.

“The Apple offerings … sound very promising and useful at the classroom level,” said Michael Hickey, a professor of education at Towson State University and a former school superintendent. “[They’re] not enough to make me give up my PC base, but I would sure like to see if the Keynote software can give PowerPoint a much-deserved run for its money.”

Alan Whitworth, technology director for the Jefferson County School District in Kentucky, called Apple’s new AirPort Extreme an “excellent” development that “will impact education as we move to more and more wireless [networks].”

“It’s nice to know that Apple has cut through the [confusion] and settled on a standard—802.11g—that allows backward compatibility with many 802.11b devices already installed in our district,” Whitworth said.

Shortly after the Macworld event, Apple confirmed that a bug in the driver software for certain graphics cards was causing problems for users of the company’s Keynote software. Some early users of the program said they experienced problems, the most severe of which caused machines to crash.

In a statement provided to online news source CNET News.com, Apple said it had identified one of the problems and was working on a fix.

“Apple has identified a bug in the driver software for certain ATI graphics chips [that] can affect a small number of systems when used with Keynote,” the company said. “Apple is working on an updated driver [that] should be available to customers shortly.”

‘Smart’ technology

While Jobs was speaking at the Macworld Conference in San Francisco, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates was at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, touting an array of “smart” devices and portable video players that run on tiny, Microsoft-powered processors.

One of the devices he previewed was a “smart” refrigerator magnet that could be programmed to receive traffic data, a child’s school lunch menu, or ads from local restaurants via a constant, low-bandwidth stream of data over the FM radio spectrum.

Microsoft plans to use its so-called DirectBand FM transmissions to stream data updates to other emerging gadgets as well, such as wristwatches that automatically update when crossing time zones and a Bernina Artista sewing machine that can download stitch and embroidery patterns from the internet.

“We have one school … that uses computer-controlled sewing machines in one subject to do unique designs,” Whitworth said. “Being able to get additional designs off the internet may have a positive impact in this class.”

Microsoft-fueled smart display screens, which Gates unveiled at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show, were to hit stores before his speech. The portable tablet screens connect with a mother ship PC via a wireless connection and can be toted around the house.

Microsoft also announced a new video compression format that Panasonic will adopt on a forthcoming DVD player. The format allows PC files to be played on TV via the DVD player, which is loaded with Microsoft’s software. Gates said a forthcoming DVD player from Polaroid also will be compatible with Windows Media PC files.

See these related links:

Apple Computer Inc.

Microsoft Corp.

International Consumer Electronics Show


Ohio tightens enrollment rules for online charters

Online charter schools in Ohio must have telephone lines and computer equipment hooked up in students’ homes before school starts if they expect to count the students as enrolled. These are terms outlined under an overhaul of the state’s charter school law signed by Gov. Bob Taft Jan. 7.

The change was made in response to concerns that arose the past two years when a few schools received state aid for students before making equipment available to them.

The law means online schools now will have to invest in equipment beforehand instead of waiting to see how large their enrollment might be, said Steve Burigana, who oversees charter schools for the state education department.

Enrollment in all 135 of Ohio’s charter schools hit a record 32,792 students this school year, according to education department records. The schools will receive about $195 million in state aid, or about 2 percent of the state’s overall education budget.

Of the charter school students, 7,118 are enrolled at nine online schools—from tiny London Digital Academy, with 27 students, to the Columbus-based Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (eCOT), with 3,665.

The online schools will receive about $38.3 million from the state this year, or about 19 percent of total charter school funding.

The new charter school law expands the number of charter schools in Ohio, sets new rules for sponsoring charter schools, and gives schools more freedom to borrow money.

Despite the growth of online charter schools, the law has only a few provisions for such schools. They typically provide students with internet connections and computers at home, then assign teachers who communicate by eMail and phone.

The law will require some face-to-face meetings between teachers and students in online schools, and it will require the schools to install filtering software to block obscene material. The frequency of face-to-face meetings is left to the discretion of the schools’ operators, a change from an earlier proposal that would have required face-to-face meetings every eight weeks.

Lawmakers also removed proposed education department rules meant to increase the success of online students. Lawmakers said they didn’t have time to consider the rules and didn’t want to overregulate the schools.

Two years ago, a state audit found that the education department overpaid eCOT $1.7 million during its first two months in 2000, providing money for students even though they did not meet enrollment standards.

The state now requires online charter schools to report enrollment monthly, instead of twice a year. They must provide verification that equipment has been received for each student, Burigana said. A year-end audit examines the accuracy of enrollment figures.

Last year, Akron-based Alternative Education Academy had to get permission from the state to let a few parents use their own computers while school computers were back-ordered. The online school has 662 students.

The new law would prevent schools from asking for that kind of temporary arrangement, Burigana said. However, if students join an online school in mid-year, they can be counted toward the school’s enrollment, provided the school is making a good-faith effort to secure the necessary equipment.

Alternative Education Academy agrees with the new law and reports the delay in getting computers was an isolated problem, said Mark Thimmig, president of the Akron-based White Hat Ventures, which runs the academy.

Being connected online first and having it verified “is a critical part of delivering [cyber] education, and we would not expect to consider a school fully active until we have done that,” Thimmig said.

See these related links:

Ohio Department of Education

Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow


UCLA study highlights web’s importance in education

A new study by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for Communication Policy bolsters the idea that schools should incorporate the internet into their instructional practices and their communication with stakeholders. Educators familiar with the study say it also suggests the importance of teaching students how to critically evaluate the information they find online.

According to the survey, Americans who use the internet consider it at least as important as newspapers and books—and more important than television, radio, and magazines. And though internet use spans every age range, 12- to 18-year-olds lead all categories: fully 97 percent of them use the internet, compared with 83 percent of 25- to 35-year-olds and 73 percent of 36- to 55-year-olds.

“There is a message for educators here about how we need to adapt what we do to … our customers—students especially,” said Marc Liebman, superintendent of the Marysville Joint Unified School District in California. “We should be looking closely at these data and responding with instructional strategies that take advantage of the fact that almost all of our students use the internet in one capacity or another, and I don’t believe that we are.”

The study, called “UCLA Internet Report: Year Three,” is the third in a series of annual nationwide surveys profiling behaviors and attitudes about internet use and non-use, such as who is online and who is not, consumer behavior, communication patterns, and social effects.

The study—which surveyed 2,000 households between April and June 2002—found that internet users are spending more time online and that they watch less television than non-users. Overall, internet users are averaging 11 hours per week online, up by more than an hour from a year earlier.

About 61 percent of users find the internet “very” or “extremely” important as an information source. That compares with 60 percent for books and 58 percent for newspapers, within the survey’s margin for error of three percentage points.

By comparison, just half of internet users find television important, 40 percent think that of radio, and 29 percent of magazines.

Although respondents think the internet is more important than ever as a source of information, they’ve also become more skeptical of what they find online. Only 53 percent of users believe most or all of what they read online, down from 58 percent a year earlier.

“This, too, is a logical finding,” Liebman said. “While the web expands, the percentage of good information has probably remainded the same. The ramification for schools and parents is that students from a very early age must be taught how to use the internet and how to analyze information for reliability.”

Among the report’s other findings:

• Internet users on average watch about 5.4 hours less of TV per week than non-users, and almost one-third of children now watch less TV than before they started using the internet—up from 23 percent in 2001.

• Nearly 40 percent of internet users say they’ve used eMail to communicate with teachers, a higher percentage than those who have used eMail to contact a government employee or health care professional. Nearly 70 percent of internet users say they are more likely to keep in touch with someone else who has access to eMail.

• Most children who use the internet still do so at home. About 85 percent of children who use the internet say they go online at home, compared with 73 percent who say they go online at school. But the number of children who use the internet at school is rising, up from 64 percent in 2001.

• The internet is not perceived by most users as having an effect on school grades; nearly three-quarters of adults in 2002 said the grades of children in their household has stayed the same since they acquired the internet.

Kathy Schrock, technology administrator for the Nauset Public Schools in Massachusetts, chose to view this last statistic in a different light.

“I think the compelling figure is not the fact that approximately 74 percent [of respondents] reported no change in their child’s grades, but the fact that almost 23 percent did,” she said. “To me, this demonstrates that having access to the internet and its rich resources … and having access to experts via eMail … is having a positive impact on student achievement.”

See this related link:

UCLA Internet Report: Year Three


From the Publisher: Hi, Five

eSchool News is five years old this month. So what?

Well, it’s the sort of milestone those involved in a venture like to take note of. In the publishing business about six in 10 new publications fail, mostly in their first year. Of course, publications can fail even after that. In recent months, we’ve seen two titles “suspend publication”—The Electronic School and Converge.

Sad as those passages are, they make us all the more grateful for your good support. Believe me: We are fully aware that making it to five is no guarantee, but to be thriving at five does suggest that eSchool News serves a legitimate need and that, if we keep working as hard as we can, it might mean we’ll be around for the long haul.

Back in March 1998, at the launch of eSchool News, we were an upstart little print newspaper with just 20,000 circulation. Now, although we still want to feel like an upstart, our print edition is read by upwards of 180,000 educators. Our initial circulation was strictly K-12. Now, we have a substantial number (nearly 12,000) of technology leaders from junior and senior colleges who read us right along with the K-12 elite.

Today, along with the newspaper, we offer educators a national newsletter and a prize-winning collection of books, directories, and guides, all carefully written or selected to help you and your colleagues make the most of your technology investments.

We’ve spent thousands of hours building the field’s most robust ed-tech web site, and every month we now serve news and information to nearly 130,000 unique visitors at eSchool News Online, the electronic companion publication of this newspaper. As we note in the column to my left (your right), we also provide online content every school day directly to more than 750 school web sites (and that number grows every week)—all absolutely free of charge. And just last month, we launched an online store designed to serve the more in-depth information needs of technology’s vanguard.

All around us, the technology revolution continues apace. As Rebecca Flowers—one of our founding editors stopping back for an encore—explains in this month’s Special Report (see page 21), peer-to-peer computing is opening vast new opportunities for collaboration and innovation, even as it poses significant perils. And—as we chronicle in yet another Special Feature in this issue (see page 15)—assistive technology is helping to eliminate some of the heart ache and hardship for our most challenged community of learners.

But as fast as some things change, others seem largely impervious to progress. Thus, the stories on Page One report how old foes of the eRate are large and in charge in Congress these days, and how the president’s calls for cuts in the 2004 ed-tech budget are stirring up controversy even before Congress has managed to report out the budget for 2003.

Our first five years have added up to a turbulent ride for eSchool News. We stepped in just as the tech bubble began to expand to gigantic proportions. Then we got splattered like everyone else when the tech bubble burst. And now, we’re settling in for tougher, but perhaps more productive times.

As thoughtful observers note elsewhere in this issue (see page 34, for example), the “Gee Whiz” era in education technology is largely behind us. Simulations and virtual reality certainly still promise a few marvels with the power to amaze. And, as we sadly report on Page One, space is still the final, perilous frontier and a place where genuine heroes and heroines are made.

But, by and large, we’re down to a quieter, more serious time in the history of education technology. Much of the infrastructure is now in place that will allow you to lift management and instruction up to a new level of magnitude. Educators today, in unprecedented numbers, have splendid new tools. Now, we need the commitment and patience to learn best how to use them.

The challenge of educating a new generation has never been greater. Along with all the traditional tribulations, you’re working in a world already transformed—and not entirely for the better. Worldwide communications and global trade not only make the world seem smaller, but they also make the world more complicated, interdependent, and far more precarious. All this serves to remind us yet once again that your work is more important than ever. The technology at your command is more powerful. But progress is once again seen to depend mostly on you. And that’s as it should be.

And that’s why we won’t be cracking open any champagne or slapping hands in the air. We’ve got too much work to do.

As we’ve done for five years now, we’ll continue to strive to bring you the technology news and information you need to succeed. The world, technology, and eSchool News are constantly changing, but as we said from the start, our objective is simple: We’re here to help ease your transition “from the old school to the eSchool.” Thanks for making it all possible.