Wooing ‘screenagers’: Microsoft bets cliques will click with teens

Parents and educators, take note: Software giant Microsoft Corp. thinks it just might understand today’s teenagers—or at least how they behave online.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company is betting its new software, called threedegrees, will define hipness in greasing teen social connections—and help it capture a budding generation from competitors led by America Online.

Aimed at the 13-24 age group, the software, now in beta-testing, is like high-octane instant-messaging.

Users can create groups of up to 10 people, trade messages, listen to music from each other’s collections, and share photos. Each group has its own icon and allows users to create new groups that add—or drop—others at will.

Forget high-school hallways: The clique has now moved online.

It’s the first product out of Microsoft’s new “NetGen” team, which focuses on the “first generation to grow up with the internet,” Will Poole, a Microsoft senior vice president, said in an eMail message. “They are early adopters, and the fabric of the internet is woven into their everyday lives—they explore, they try new things, and they influence the broad consumer market.”

Microsoft isn’t the only company looking to curry favor with the consumer of the future. AOL, whose instant-messaging service is popular among teens, is working on new software to retain its younger base, reportedly by incorporating aspects of eMail software.

AOL would not discuss its efforts when contacted by a reporter. But one thing seems likely: Makers of educational software will be closely watching these and other initiatives, which could influence how students interact with tomorrow’s technologies both inside and outside of school.

The seeds for threedegrees came from a Not-Net-Gen’er, Tammy Savage, now 33.

“Having fun with friends is their No. 1 priority,” Savage said of young people. A 10-year Microsoft employee who started in business development, Savage grew threedegrees out of a reality TV-like experiment with college students.

In 2000, she gathered 12 students from Oberlin College in Ohio, the alma mater of a colleague who had suggested a professor to contact. The students spent three weeks in a house in the granola-and-polar fleece neighborhood of Greenlake in Seattle.

Savage studied the students’ use of technology as they tried to come up with a business plan and found that they were instant-messaging and web surfing even before their morning coffee.

Eureka, thought Savage. The youths of the Net Generation think of the internet in the same way people in general think of oxygen. In other words, they don’t.

Next, Savage assembled the future NetGen team—a group of 20-somethings—for a three-day retreat in 2001, and the program that eventually become threedegrees emerged.

Named after the “six degrees of separation” idea that any two people are connected to one another through a series of relationships, the program has limited uses now. But it might add video gaming and other shared functions in the future, Savage said.

For now, a user can invite up to nine others to a group for chatting, and instantly send photos to the whole group with a single computer mouse motion. A user can also send the group “winks,” or audiovisual files such as Bill Gates accompanied by a voice saying “Back to Work” or a robot who crashes through the screen.

Threedegrees also allows group members to listen to music stored on their friends’ computers—without allowing copying. The software includes technology that only allows a user’s music to be played when he or she is logged on, a nod to the music industry’s piracy concerns.

The program, which requires the latest version of Windows XP and other components, creates a mini-network of users’ personal computers to share information as well as processing power.

Microsoft would not disclose how many people are participating in the beta-testing, which is expected to wrap up this summer. Spokeswoman Erin Cullen said the company has not yet decided whether to charge for the service.

Threedegrees eventually could find its way into business software or other Microsoft products, said Michael Gartenberg, research director for Jupiter Research. Instead of 10 teenagers, 10 educators might chat over the beefed-up instant-messaging system.

Microsoft offers business-oriented collaboration software already, but its NetMeeting and SharePoint products have not seen wide adoption. To bolster its efforts, it signed a deal earlier this year to buy PlaceWare Inc., an online collaboration service provider. Microsoft has also invested in Groove Networks, a collaboration software firm.

Threedegrees might also be a way for Microsoft to chip away at AOL’s customer base, and perhaps make its MSN Internet service more appealing, said Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, an independent research firm.

For those who study teenagers’ use of the internet, instant-messaging is the right starting point for attracting the teenage set.

“It’s allowing you to create online groups,” said Amanda Lenhart, a research specialist for the Pew Internet & American Life Project. “For good or for evil, it’s a fact of life in middle school or high school.”

Links:

Microsoft threedegrees
http://www.threedegrees.com

Pew Internet & American Life Project
http://www.pewinternet.org

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Scantron offers ‘free’ online assessments for schools

To help educators meet the rigorous demands of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), Scantron Corp. is offering $2.5 million worth of free, computer-based assessments to schools nationwide. The catch: schools taking advantage of the offer can expect to pay a one-time training fee of up to $2,000.

The initiative, announced March 25, will provide schools with 250,000 standards-based assessments using Scantron’s Performance Series, a computer-adaptive online assessment program tailored to each test taker’s individual ability and grade level.

According to Scantron executives, the company is offering the product at no charge to help financially troubled state and local governments meet the increased cost of accountability in America’s schools.

“Schools are being asked to cut expenses and increase accountability, which in many cases means more testing, assessment, and realignment of curriculum to meet state and national standards,” said Tom Hoag, the company’s president and chief executive officer. “Scantron is stepping up to the plate with a program aimed specifically at assisting schools in bridging the learning gap between disadvantaged and minority students and their peers, which is the ultimate goal of [NCLB].”

The assessments are offered in two subject areas: math and reading. More importantly, each test is customizable to individual state standards, said Joanna Goldston, marketing manager for Scantron.

According to Goldston, Performance Series assessments provide educators and administrators with the ability to disaggregate data on an individual, class, school, or district-wide basis.

The results—which are delivered in real time—enable educators to measure students’ progress toward prescribed goals instantly. The instantaneous feedback should enable educators to adjust their teaching practices as they go and create individualized learning plans for improved student achievement, Goldston said.

Keeping within the spirit of increased accountability, Performance Series also is built to break out student performance data according to different demographic levels, letting administrators know just how close certain groups of children are to reaching the magic threshold of NCLB compliance.

Scantron is offering up to 1,000 free assessments per district. However, it’s up to each school or district whether it wants to assess students’ reading or math skills—the deal does not include free assessments for both subjects.

The free Performance Series assessments are given at two times during the year: once to determine each child’s strengths and weaknesses related to state standards, and later in the school year to measure gains.

“This is Scantron’s offer to assist educators and administrators who are in need,” Goldston said. “It’s a goodwill gesture to provide schools with this technology.”

Skeptical? Well, these days even the word “free” can have its price.

Although there are no restrictions on what types of schools or districts can apply for these assessments—and the technology itself is free—educators should be aware of certain inherent fees associated with the implementation of Performance Series in schools, including the price of teacher training.

According to Goldston, participating schools can expect to pay a one-time fee of up to $2,000 for on-site training provided by the company.

Included in that fee is a face-to-face instructional training session for up to 20 school personnel. Educators who complete the program are encouraged to instruct other staff members how to use the assessment tools at no extra charge, the company said.

The price of the training program also includes a free technology evaluation from a Scantron service group, wherein company representatives evaluate a school’s computer infrastructure to decide whether or not the building is properly equipped to employ the technology.

Scantron said it will keep enrollment in the program open through May.

Links:

Scantron Corp. Performance Series
http://www.scantron.com/products/performance/index.htm

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Up to $10 million in matching grants to access online courses

CyberLearning, a project of the National Education Foundation, aims to help bridge the digital divide by giving K-12 schools, colleges, universities, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations the opportunity to receive matching grants to access more than 1,000 online courses in information technology (IT), management, and SAT preparation. Applicants must write a one-page proposal that describes their target population and how they would use the courses to improve the IT, management, or SAT skills of this population, including students, teachers, and staff. One-year matching grants ranging from $30,000 to $10 million are awarded to applicants based on the poverty level of the target populations or communities. Recent awards include $50,000 to Seattle Shoreline Community College, $250,000 to the New Haven School District in Connecticut, and $4,000,000 to the New Jersey State Department of Education to train 75,000 disadvantaged high school students and teachers.

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Witness the search for extraterrestrial life at this NASA web site

The tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia and its crew Feb. 1 hasn’t deterred NASA from its search for new worlds. This search is being conducted over the next 15 years through a series of NASA missions using the most sensitive instruments ever made. On the agency’s “PlanetQuest” web site, students can learn all about these instruments and the missions they are being used in. Students can find out how scientists discover new planets and determine whether a planet is habitable, search an “atlas” of planets to see what planets have been discovered thus far (there are 102), or tour a multimedia gallery. Resources for teachers and focused learning activities for students also are provided.

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Stimulate a discussion of racism in America today with this PBS web site

On the morning following the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Jane Elliott&mdasha third-grade teacher from Riceville, Iowa—decided the time was ripe for a risk. What might it feel like to be black, she asked her class. It was a lesson her students would not soon forget. Now, more than 30 years later, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) celebrates Elliott’s courageous attempt to confront racial prejudice in the classroom with “A Class Divided.” The web site, which complements a Frontline documentary by the same name about Elliott’s remarkable “blue eyes/brown eyes” exercise, enables students to view the documentary in its entirety and provides resources to stimulate discussion about the state of racism in America today. It also contains a number of readings and links for students to conduct follow-up research. For teachers, there is an online guide with several lessons corresponding to the documentary. There’s even a discussion section where educators can seek answers to questions, as well as a published interview with Jane Elliott herself.

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Partners Index

Acer America Corp., a subsidiary of the Acer Group with U.S. headquarters in San Jose, Calif., offers a broad spectrum of IT products and services. Visit Acer’s web site: http://www.acer.com (800) 733-2237 See Acer’s ad between pages 28 and 29

Book Systems Inc., of Huntsville, Ala., provides high-quality, innovative solutions for library management, including affordable library automation software that lets you tap into the internet. Visit the Book Systems web site: http://www.booksys.com (800) 219-6571 See the ad for Book Systems on page 9

CDI Computers, of Markham, Ontario, remarkets high-quality refurbished computers and instructional technology equipment across North America, with the goal of increasing student-to-computer ratios while stretching school technology budgets. Visit CDI’s web site: http://www.cdihomeroom.com (888) 226-5727 See CDI’s ad on page 14

eBook Systems Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., is the creator of FlipAlbum, a program that allows you to create and share virtual photo albums on your PC, via compact disc, or online. Visit the FlipAlbum web site: http://www.flipalbum.com/m71 (866) 532-8080 See the eBook Systems ad on page 13

EnGenius Inc., of Livonia, Mich., provides a wide array of software and hardware engineering services and custom application development. Visit the EnGenius web site: http://www.engenius.com (734) 522-2120 See the ad for EnGenius on page 25

Gateway Inc., of San Diego, is a Fortune 250 company focusing on building lifelong relationships with businesses, schools, and consumers through complete technology personalization. Visit the Gateway web site: http://www.gateway.com (800) GATEWAY See the Gateway ads on pages 2 and 3, 19, 21, 24, and 47

GTCO CalComp Inc., of Columbia, Md., is a leading manufacturer of interactive digital input devices—including desktop tablets and drawing boards for use with graphics and imaging software, large-format scanners, and wireless electronic whiteboards—for use in the classroom. Visit the GTCO CalComp web site: http://www.gtcocalcomp.com (800) 344-4723 See GTCO CalComp’s ad on page 16

Hewlett-Packard Co., of Palo Alto, Calif., is a leading manufacturer of all the essential components of technology infrastructure—servers, storage, management software, imaging and printing, personal computers, and personal access devices. Visit the HP web site: http://www.hp.com (800) 752-0900 See HP’s ads on pages 10, 11, and 35

Hi Resolution Systems Ltd., of Columbia, Ill., has been creating and marketing software solutions for Macintosh operating systems since 1989. Visit the Hi Resolution Systems web site: http://www.hi-resolution.com (800) 455-0888 See the Hi Resolution Systems ad on page 5 IBM Corp., headquartered in Armonk, N.Y, provides powerful tools that help enrich educational programs. Visit the IBM web site: http://www.ibm.com/shop/edu/g174 (866) 426-0524 See IBM’s ad on page 55

LeapFrog SchoolHouse, of Emeryville, Calif., publishes award-winning preK-8 curriculum and assessment content specifically designed for the classroom. Visit the LeapFrog SchoolHouse web site: http://www.leapfrogschoolhouse.com (800) 883-7430 See the ad for LeapFrog SchoolHouse on page 12

McGraw Hill Digital Learning, of Columbus, Ohio, provides research-based, standards-aligned technology solutions that improve student performance and teacher productivity. Visit McGraw Hill Digital Learning’s web site: http://www.mhdigitallearning.com (614) 430-4226 See McGraw Hill Digital Learning’s ad on page 39

Meridian Creative Group, of Erie, Pa., provides math software for every student. Visit the Meridian Creative Group web site: http://www.meridiancg.com (800) 530-2355 See Meridian’s ad on page 32

MiLAN Technology, of Sunnyvale, Calif., is a leading provider of physical-layer networking products and a pioneer in the field of media conversion. Visit MiLAN’s web site: http://www.milan.com (800) 466-4526 See the ad for MiLAN Technology on page 7

Oracle Corp., with world headquarters in Redwood Shores, Calif., is a global leader in business-to-business software and services, including internet-enabled database, tools, and application products, along with related consulting, education, and support services. Visit Oracle’s web site: http://www.oracle.com (800) 529-0165 See Oracle’s ad on page 15

Pearson Education Technologies, of Tucson, Ariz., is a leading provider of educational software and learning solutions to K-12 schools and adult learners. Visit the Pearson Education Technologies web site: http://www.pearsonedtech.com (888) 627-LEARN See the ad for Pearson Education Technologies on the back cover

Rediker Software Inc., of Hampden, Mass., is a leading provider of school administrative software for educators and administrators worldwide. Visit the Rediker Software web site: http://www.rediker.com (800) 213-9860 See the ad for Rediker Software on page 27

Sagebrush Corp., of Minneapolis, is a fast-growing leader in serving K-12 library media specialists in their efforts to provide access to information, stimulate interest in reading, and improve student performance. Visit the Sagebrush web site: http://www.sagebrushcorp.com (800) 328-2923 See the Sagebrush ad on page 8

Stratacache, of Dayton, Ohio, is a maker of acceleration products that enable fast, bandwidth-efficient delivery of web content. Visit the Stratacache web site: http://www.stratacache.com (800) 244-8915 See the ad for Stratacache on page 26

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Calendar

April

April 2-3
Minneapolis. Connected Classroom Conference
. This conference, sponsored by Classroom Connect, is held in 10 cities each year as a forum for educators to discuss the incorporation of technology and the internet into classroom instruction. Individual workshops are structured according to skill level for beginner, intermediate, and advanced, with several workshops for all levels. Hands-on labs also are available at an additional cost. Contact: (800) 638-1639 http://proflearn.classroom.com/ ProfDev/Conferences

April 3
Cumberland, Md. Accessing the Fundamentals: Accessible Information Technology in Education
. Sponsored by the Maryland Technology Assistance Program, this conference is comprised of two concurrent sessions: Accessible Distance Learning and Accessible Software Evaluation and Procurement. Registration is limited to 100 people. Contact: (800) 832-4827 http://www.mdtap.org

April 11-15
Anaheim, Calif. National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) 82nd Annual Convention and Exposition
. Educators who attend this show will be invited to participate in full-day learning workshops, concurrent discussion sessions, and exhibits featuring the latest innovations for school administrators. Featured topics include data-driven decision making, improving the quality of urban schools, and the betterment of national early-childhood programs. Contact: (800) 386-2377 http://www.naesp.org/conventions.html

April 16-19
Dallas. National Business Education Association (NBEA) Annual Convention: “Educating for Success in Business and Life.
” K-12 instructors, college administrators, and NBEA members are invited to this event to explore technology’s impact on education by participating in hands-on computer workshops, professional development seminars, and general discussion sessions focused on preparing students for success in the business world. Contact: (703) 860-8300 http://www.nbea.org/conffanm.html

April 23-26
Portland, Ore. Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE) Annual Conference
. Now in its 32nd year, this conference brings teachers, principals, and administrators from Oregon and other northwestern states together to discuss the coordination of activities related to the instructional use of computers and other school technologies. Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss equality in technology education, promote the use of successful best practices in technology integration, and debate proficiency standards for top-notch ed-tech programs in schools. Contact: (360) 650-4760 http://www.ncce.org/index.html

May

May 8-10
Anaheim, Calif. Computer Using Educators (CUE) 2003 Spring Conference:
“Providing the Tools.” Educators are invited to participate in free, hands-on technology sessions at this event sponsored by CUE, a California-based nonprofit organization supporting the integration of technology into the classroom. Attendees will observe best practices in ed-tech integration via student-led demonstrations and discuss ways to collaborate on their technology efforts with institutions of higher learning. They’ll also be able to purchase access to the conference exhibit hall, where the latest technologies will be on display. Sign up five teachers from your school and one administrator goes to the show for free. Contact: (510) 814-6630 http://www.cue.org

May 14-16
New York City. Education, Technology, and Curriculum Summit 2003.
Sponsored by the Teacher’s College at Columbia University, this conference features the theme “New Models for Individualized Instruction.” It will focus primarily on 12 hot-button topics in K-12 education, spanning from adequate yearly progress and the digital divide to testing, assessment, and professional development. Contact: (888) 464-9950 http://www.edtechsummit.org

June

June 18-20
Pottersville, N.J. edACCESS Technology Conference: “It’s All About Communication.”
Sponsored by edACCESS, a national association of administrative professionals at small schools and colleges, this 12th annual conference gives educators and administrative computing personnel the chance to address some of the more common problems in the ed-tech arena. Through a number of hands-on activities and peer-to-peer discussions, stakeholders will be encouraged to test new solutions to today’s technology challenges. Contact: (413) 774-1422 http://www.edaccess.org

June 23-28
Honolulu. World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia, and Telecommunications (ED-MEDIA) 2003.
The Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education invites educators and technology experts from across the globe to discuss several major topics, including technology infrastructure, tools and content applications, new roles of the instructor and learner, human-computer interaction, best practices, and universal web access. These and other topics will be addressed through a number of channels and networking activities, including tutorials, interactive presentations, discussion sessions, and keynote speeches. Contact: (757) 623-7588 http://www.aace.org/conf/edmedia

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From the Publisher:The Cassandra conversion

Cassandra, legendary daughter of Priam and Hecuba, was an ill-fated Trojan oracle. Her renown spread far and wide in the Hellenic world, because she always predicted the worst, and because her predictions—though never believed—always came true.

Some people around eSchool News contend I have something in common with Cassandra—at least in matters political. When it comes to politicians, they charge, I inevitably expect the worst. On the other hand, that’s where any resemblance to Cassandra concludes. Nobody around here—and you may trust me on this—has ever accused me of always being right.

The most recent example of my not being right came as Congress belatedly passed the 2003 spending bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, which included funding for key technology programs. Eyeing the $147-million meat cleaver the Bush administration held poised above essential ed-tech programs—Star Schools, Community Technology Centers, Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology, and more—I predicted the worst.

I was thoroughly convinced the Republican-controlled Congress would salute smartly and shoot down the programs Bush had targeted. As we report on the Front Page of this issue, however, the intrepid lawmakers did nothing of the sort.

On a boatload of legislative issues, the Republican majority in the House and Senate has been largely deferential to the White House will. So why this well-founded, but surprising break with President Bush?

One explanation is that people of good will strive to do what’s right. Another is that “all politics is local,” as Tip O’Neill, the late speaker of the House, famously observed. But presidential candidates, alone among office-seekers, must pursue their office nationally. Representatives and even senators, on the other hand, have to face local parents and grandparents with children in school, not to mention teacher unions. For those lawmakers, support for education doesn’t just sound good. It’s good and sound—and a record they want to tout along the hustings. These explanations are not mutually exclusive. It is possible, after all, to do well by doing good.

Evidence has begun to mount that adequate technology does have a positive impact on student achievement, and the better the technology gets, the more it empowers educators to enhance classroom practice, introduce data-driven decision making, and focus resources and attention where the data show they’re needed most.

I’d like to believe federal lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, understand this and simply felt so strongly about it that they funded those key technology programs in spite of White House pressure.

I’d like to believe that, so I will—for the entire month of April. And my hat’s off to those who took these principled votes.

To be sure, the funding from Washington won’t offset the huge and punishing deficits confronting the states and localities. As a school leader, you’ll still have to scrimp and scheme and use all your skill and experience to stretch what meager funding your technology programs receive. But $147 million from Washington isn’t chump change. Education surely will be better with it than without it.

Now, it will be up to all of us—educators and education advocates alike—to make worthy use of the technology resources still available.

Of course, old habits are hard to break. Confronted by good news from Congress, it’s tempting to start fretting about the possibilities of executive shenanigans. For those old enough to remember the Nixon administration, “executive rescissions” might be a dirty trick that leaps to mind. These rescissions became a tactic wherein the Nixon administration, displeased with certain funding allocations, would simply sit on the money Congress allocated, would just refuse to spend it.

But there I go again. Instead of borrowing trouble, let’s suppose—at least for this mild month—that the Bush administration will respect the will of Congress and the people and will go along quietly to implement the programs Congress has rightly funded.

In that case, I might undergo a change of character. Unnatural as it might seem, I might resolve to think good thoughts about our political leaders. Yes, in this new cheerful frame of mind, I might try to catch the politicians in the act of doing something wonderful. I might begin to put happy faces in my eMail messages.

If the Republican-controlled Congress can do the right thing by ed-tech funding, it would seem the least I could do.

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Students keep community´s eye on schools with low-cost cable program

Caught between the looming hammer of new federal regulations and a deepening school budget crisis that is cutting the very programs needed to make sure that kids really aren’t left behind, chances are you’re not going to have any more money to communicate with parents and promote your schools.

If you’re looking for a new, cost-effective way to use the birth mother of new media—cable television—you might want to tune into an innovative program called “Eye on Rockwood.” Created by students under the auspices of the Rockwood (Mo.) School District’s communications department, the program puts a positive spotlight on students and schools.

“The stories can really be about anything,” says Tom Booth, a broadcast journalism specialist who works on a standard teacher contract. “I tell my students and our teachers to look for unusual classes, hobbies, skills, talents.”

Recent segments have included a middle school Victorian ball with period costumes that incorporated lessons from social studies and language arts classes, a high school that hosted a drama camp for elementary school students, and a parent volunteer who uses a pet parrot to calm and relate to troubled kids as they wait to see a school counselor.

An early childhood special-education program that is helping preschoolers start kindergarten on par with their non-disabled peers also has been featured, along with the requisite blood drives, fundraisers, and school musicals. Because the program’s purpose is to show parents and the community how well Rockwood students, teachers, schools, and the district are performing, negative or sensational stories really haven’t been an issue.

“We let students know up front what the purpose is, and that it’s part of the district’s communications department,” says Booth. “We really don’t get into anything controversial.”

Booth currently has a stable of 27 reporters from the district’s four high schools. In addition to gaining valuable, hands-on experience in tracking down stories, conducting interviews, and producing news segments, students may receive one-half practical arts credit for 75 hours of participation.

The student journalists also are given eight hours of release time each month so they can cover events during school hours. To keep students focused academically, however, most release time is for a half-day or less at a time.

Each school is equipped with identical camera packages, which include a SVHS (“super-vee”) Panasonic with a light kit and a set of microphones (wireless, handheld with the Eye on Rockwood logo and a clip-on). Booth also has a similar equipment package, which he brings to various shoots.

Students are responsible for finding, researching and writing the stories. They also interview their subjects and handle the on-camera stand-ups and story introductions and wrap-arounds.

Booth handles most of the videography and editing, using a non-linear system from Avid Technology. He also schedules student videographers, who can check out their school cameras from a designated administrator on campus. Although he’s willing to work with interested students, he’s found that most simply don’t have the time that video editing and production requires.

Booth meets with his reporting team about once a month and maintains frequent contact through eMail and on-site camera work. The finished program runs 30 minutes and airs on a two-week schedule on the local cable channel for Charter Communications. Typically, Booth includes four news segments, along with a two-minute “blooper” piece at the end. A standard logo opening and closing with credits also is included.

At the end of each school year, Booth presents each student with a personalized newsreel on VHS tape. In addition to sharing the good news about students, teachers, schools, and the district, the teenagers have found that it puts a positive eye on them as well. The newsreels have helped Rockwood graduates get into some of the nation’s top journalism schools, according to Booth.

“Normally, journalism students at Mizzou [the University of Missouri at Columbia] have to put in a couple of years of coursework before doing anything at the local TV station that is manned by students,” says Booth. “One of our students was able to start doing volunteer stuff right away as a freshman because of the experiences he had in Rockwood.”

Booth says he finds working with young people deeply satisfying after logging more than 20 years in newsrooms and corporate public relations offices. “This is just a perfect match, it’s really refreshing,” says Booth, who has a bachelor of arts degree in English and a master of arts in communication.

Districts interested in starting a similar news show need to invest in high-quality equipment, Booth says, noting that the Panasonics he and the students use are configured similarly to those found in local television newsrooms. “The district has really been behind the program financially, in terms of getting us good gear and good editing systems,” says Booth. “So often you’re given the little camcorder and everybody wants NBC.”

Booth also said that he feels the program would benefit from some additional structure. “I come from a different environment, so I’m used to doing a program, not supporting a class,” says Booth. “I think it would help keep the students motivated if we had a little more structure and met more often as a class, so that’s something I’m working on for the future.”

See these related links:

Rockwood School District
http://www.rockwood.k12.mo.us

Avid Technology
http://www.avid.com

Nora Carr is senior vice president and director of public relations for Luquire George Andrews Inc., a Charlotte, N.C.-based advertising and public relations firm. A former assistant superintendent for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, she is nationally recognized for her work in educational communications and marketing.

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Connectix sale raises cross-platform concerns

Software giant Microsoft Corp. has acquired the assets of Connectix Corp., a maker of software that allows users to run Windows-based applications on Macintosh machines. Some educators say they fear the move could hinder their ability to support a cross-platform computing environment in their schools.

Microsoft purchased the technology of the privately held company for an undisclosed amount on Feb. 19, citing its potential to help current Microsoft customers easily migrate to new operating system platforms while continuing to leverage investments in their existing applications.

The move could harbor serious implications for schools, however, because it calls into question the future of Connectix’s Virtual PC for Mac product—a popular tool among school customers that enables users of Apple Computer’s Macintosh platform to run Windows-based applications, access PC networks, exploit certain Windows-based internet features, and share files with PC users seamlessly.

The software is particularly useful in schools, which often contain a mix of Windows and Macintosh computers, as a way to ensure that users of different platforms can swap files easily and use the same applications.

According to Microsoft, the more than 1 million schools and businesses that depend on Connectix’s Virtual PC for Mac to provide interoperability between various PC and Mac computers have little to fear.

“Microsoft is committed to the continued development and sales of Connectix Virtual PC products,” said Tim McDonough, director of marketing and business development for Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit. “[Our] goal is to provide the best Office software for the Mac platform, making it seamless for teachers and students to communicate with their Windows counterparts.”

Still, some educators question whether Microsoft is sincere in its pledge to develop and support a product that essentially enables customers to make better use of a chief competitor’s operating system.

“As a user of Virtual PC in my school to run a Windows-only program on Macintosh [computers], I am concerned that this product might not be supported under Microsoft ownership,” said Christine McIntosh, a library media specialist and school technology coordinator for Bernheim Middle School in Shepherdsville, Ky.

“The program has allowed my school, which is cross-platform, to run a program that is state-mandated,” she added. “While our state technology master plan called for all state-adopted programs to exist on both Macintosh and Windows platforms, the solution for running this program on all computers was the use of Virtual PC on the Macintosh side.”

Microsoft insists the move is in no way intended as a first step toward phasing out Virtual PC for Mac. The deal, it said, was intended to fulfill the growing demands of its customers.

Through the acquisition, the Redmond, Wash.-based software company also acquired rights to several other Connectix brands, including its Virtual PC for Windows software and its not-yet-released virtual server product unit.

Virtual PC for Windows gives current Windows customers a tool to migrate to Windows XP or Windows 2000 Professional operating systems more easily, Microsoft said. The product also supports legacy applications and provides a slew of other resources, including technical support, increased call-center access, and education and training programs.

Microsoft said it also plans to continue developing the virtual server product. In beta-testing before the acquisition, Connectix’s virtual server technology was found to consolidate multiple Windows NT 4.0 servers and their applications onto a single server system, Microsoft said, thus driving down costs and increasing efficiency. The product is scheduled for release before the end of 2003.

As for the 100 employees at Connectix, the future is uncertain. For now, the company will continue to build and support its virtual machine technology, said Maryann McGregor, vice president of marketing and communications for Connectix. However, Microsoft will assume full control over Connectix when a transition period ends Aug. 15.

See these related links:

Microsoft Corp.
http://www.microsoft.com

Connectix Corp.
http://www.connectix.com

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