Save money on paper and toner with Print Manager Plus 4.0

Print Manager Plus 4.0, from Software Shelf International Inc., lets you set a limit on student printing and avoid budget disasters that can result from uncontrolled, irresponsible printing. Besides saving paper, it’ll also save toner and wear and tear on your school’s printers, the company says.

Print Manager Plus supports printing from most operating systems and all printer types. It installs in seconds on any Windows-based print server, requires no agents, and makes no changes to printer drivers.

The software enables users to enter a different page cost per printer (taking into account whether it prints in color or black-and-white, for example) and thus can calculate exact printing costs per user or printer. The interface contains built-in reports showing how many pages each user or printer has printed over specific time periods and the actual cost of these activities.

Using the software, you can set an overall price quota per user or group over a certain period of time, limit job sizes by user to a specified number of pages, or restrict printing jobs based on file type, application, or by keywords in the document title. The company claims that in an average school environment of 1,000 students, the software pays for itself in paper and toner saved every ten days.

Print Manager Plus 4.0 is licensed per print server. One license’including annual maintenance’costs $596.25. For purchases of 51 or more licenses, the price drops to $371.25 per license.

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Help elementary students meet AYP with this software from McGraw-Hill

Yearly ProgressPro, from McGraw-Hill Digital Learning, is an online, curriculum-based measurement tool designed to raise the achievement of students in first to sixth grade. The software addresses instruction, assessment, and intervention to help elementary school students succeed on the yearly tests required by the No Child Left Behind Act.

“The need for research-based solutions proven to raise student achievement, coupled with growing accountability demands, makes it critical for teachers and administrators to instantly know where to focus instruction and where their students rank within state and national standards,” said Brad Onken, president of McGraw-Hill Digital Learning. “Yearly ProgressPro provides these data in an easy-to-use tool that continually assesses progress over the entire curriculum to ensure adequate yearly progress [AYP].”

Yearly ProgressPro works through weekly, 15-minute tests that assess the entire grade level curriculum to prevent slippage of student skill mastery. Exercises and practice sets are included to introduce or explain a given skill and provide for automatic instruction. A data management system then allows educators to track students’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as whole-class performance on specific skills or skill groupings.

Yearly ProgressPro Math is now available, and the company plans to launch Yearly ProgressPro Reading next. The math tool gives teachers more than 500 individual skills assessments aligned with state and national standards, but an additional 19,000 assessments are available.

A school license for Yearly Progress Pro costs $2,995 per year, per subject for up to 250 students and $6,995 per year, per subject for up to 1,000 students. District-level pricing is available upon request.

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Live webcasting is easy with this appliance from Codifica

Teachers can broadcast their lessons live over the internet or archive them for future viewing with MediaSite Live 2.0., an easy-to-use appliance distributed by Codifica LLC of Coconut Grove, Fla.

MediaSite Live simplifies the process of webcasting without the complications of authoring and production. This comprehensive solution allows users to capture, stream, deliver, and archive synchronized audio, video, and other multimedia presentation material without expensive media production equipment and with unprecedented flexibility, convenience, and speed.

“I was so impressed with the simplicity of this product and the gigantic possibilities for its use,” said Barbara K. Sugarman of The Carrollton School in Miami.

To use the device, teachers simply need a digital camcorder, a microphone, and good lighting in their classroom. MediaSite Live captures the audio and video of a teacher’s lesson and synchronizes it to supporting documents used in the lesson, such as electronic whiteboards, transparencies, or PowerPoint slides.

MediaSite Live reportedly captures and streams any type of digital content’from presenter video to transparencies, opaque projections, interactive whiteboards, presentation graphics, and Microsoft Office applications, including PowerPoint slides, screen shots, and live web pages.

“Our teachers simply plug their laptops into the system, and whatever they pull up on the monitor is instantly presented and can be streamed across the internet in a highly professional and efficient manner,” said Joan Lutton, head of The Cushman School and president of the Florida Council of Independent Schools.

Teachers can stream lessons live and/or save them for viewing later. The supporting software walks the teacher through the process of configuring the webcast for 56K or high-speed internet access. The appliance and supporting software costs about $23,000.

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Sagebrush’s new search engine helps quickly pinpoint relevant information

For teachers, students, and librarians, the ability to locate accurate, relevant information about a particular topic quickly and easily is critical. This ability might be greatly enhanced by a new search engine from Sagebrush Corp., called Pinpoint, that combines the best of meta-searches and clustering to deliver search results from a district’s own library resources’as well as external subscription databases, web sites, and web search engines’in a single step, all grouped according to category.

For teachers, students, and librarians, the ability to locate accurate, relevant information about a particular topic quickly and easily is critical. This ability might be greatly enhanced by a new search engine from Sagebrush Corp., called Pinpoint, that combines the best of meta-searches and clustering to deliver search results from a district’s own library resources’as well as external subscription databases, web sites, and web search engines’in a single step, all grouped according to category.

“School districts are investing in high-quality resources”databases, cataloged web site collections, online references, magazines, and books’but unless students can access all of them without difficulty, those resources go to waste,” said Jim Zicarelli, chief executive officer of Sagebrush.

Pinpoint gathers, evaluates, ranks, and reports the most relevant results from these and other online sources. Because it’s web-based, students can access the results from anywhere, at any time. The software reportedly supports databases from bigchalk, EBSCO, Gale Group, Grolier Online, H.W. Wilson, NewsBank, and ProQuest, and it also can accommodate others upon request. It does not include the cost of these resources; schools would still have to subscribe to each one separately.

With Pinpoint, Sagebrush says, students can better manage information overload and more easily navigate through search results by selecting relevant content groups, because it clusters the results into sub-groups based on context. For example, if you typed in the search term “mercury,” it would group the results into topics such as Mercury the planet, Mercury the Greek god, mercury the element, Mercury Theater, Mercury the car, and so on, instead of returning an unordered hodgepodge of resources.

The software also reportedly can search for age-appropriate material. At the beginning of a search, a user self-selects whether it is a grade school, junior high, high school, or adult search. Over time, for each search term, the search engine analyzes what resources are most useful based on how often and by which age group they are accessed. “If it turns out most kids click on Grolier versus something else, the search engine learns from that,” said Bret A. Busse, technology and marketing director for iXMatch, the company behind the new search technology. “It learns the relationship between the user’s level, what’s being searched, and what’s being used.”
Pinpoint does not act as a content filter, but it does come with a standard list of useful web sites that schools can customize.

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Study: Video game-playing boosts perception

All those hours spent playing video games might not be wasted time after all: A new study suggests action-packed video games such as “Grand Theft Auto III” and “Counter-Strike” might actually sharpen students’ minds.

Researchers at the University of Rochester in New York found that young adults who regularly played video games full of high-speed car chases and blazing gun battles showed better visual skills than those who did not. For example, they kept better track of objects appearing simultaneously and processed fast-changing visual information more efficiently.

To rule out the possibility that visually adept people are simply drawn toward video games, the researchers conducted a second experiment. They found that people who do not normally play video games but were trained to play them developed enhanced visual perception.

Exactly why video games have this effect is not clear. The researchers said more study is needed.

They said the findings suggest that video games could be used to help visually impaired patients see better or to train soldiers for combat.

The study was published in the May 29 issue of the journal Nature and was led by Daphne Bavelier, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences.

Parent groups and anti-violence advocates contend that the bloodshed in some video games triggers aggressive behavior in young people, as some hotly disputed studies have suggested. They blame violent video games for such crimes as the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

The new study did not directly address how video violence affects behavior. Instead, the experiments focused on a person’s ability to recognize and interpret symbols and letters after playing video games.

“Some people think that video games are turning kids into supergeniuses or psychokillers,” said Kurt Squire, an educational game designer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Games-To-Teach Project, who was not part of the study. “The reality is probably close to this, where people can process visual information much quicker and be able to discern between different types of information.”

Soldiers who grow up playing video games do better in processing information on a screen or operating long-range unmanned aerial vehicles that can film or photograph enemy activity on the ground, according to military experts.

“There are some very avid video gamers in the military. The people who have been playing video games all their lives seem a lot more comfortable in some of these kinds of environments,” said Lt. Cmdr. Russell Shilling of the MOVES (Modeling, Virtual Environments, and Simulation) Institute at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.

In the Rochester study, 16 men ages 18 to 23 took a series of tests that measured their ability to locate the position of a blinking object, count the number of simultaneous objects on a screen, and pick out the color of an alphabet letter. Those who played video games for the previous six months performed better in all those tests than those who did not.

In a separate test, a group of 17 who never played video games were trained to play the military game “Medal of Honor” and the puzzle game “Tetris.” After playing for 10 days, those who learned “Medal of Honor” scored better on the performance tests than those who didn’t. The Tetris players showed no measurable gains.

Despite the study’s findings, Pamela Eakes, president of the Seattle-based Mothers Against Violence in America, said scientists need to look more closely at the effects of video violence on habitual video-game players.

Links:

Nature
http://www.nature.com

“Video games boost visual skills”
http://www.nature.com/nsu/030527/030527-5.html

Games-to-Teach Project
http://cms.mit.edu/games/education

The MOVES Institute: Naval Postgraduate School
http://www.movesinstitute.org/

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ED solicits feedback on national ed-tech plan

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is asking members of the education community for help in drafting a new National Education Technology Plan as required under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

K-12 and higher-education administrators, educators, parents, and students—as well as business and industry professionals—are encouraged to participate in the online dialogue, which invites comments about how technology best can be used to improve teaching and learning throughout the 21st century, ED said May 27.

Interested stakeholders can give their input by visiting the National Education Technology Plan’s web site and clicking on the “Participate in the Plan” link.

“The plan will center on how to help students as they grow up being exposed to various technologies,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige in a statement. “This effort will set new priorities and actions that all stakeholders can rally behind to ensure technology is being used effectively to prepare students for their future, not our past.”

The latest version of the plan—the third such draft—will incorporate feedback on best practices, research studies, and barriers preventing the effective use of technology, as well as input from leading educational organizations regarding the nation’s top ed-tech priorities.

ED said it will use the comments and suggestions it receives to formulate a national strategy that builds on the strides already taken to wire America’s schools and provide increased computer access for its students. The comments also will bring to light needs that continue unanswered and should serve as a blueprint for what the future holds, officials said.

Other activities slated around the technology plan include online discussions with students, parents, and teachers, as well as forums and stakeholder meetings designed to help spur creative thinking and innovation among school technology planners nationwide.

To ensure that its efforts are not in vain, ED has enlisted the American Institutes for Research, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and the State Educational Technology Director’s Association to provide support for the plan and make suggestions regarding the inclusion of stakeholder feedback.

“We’re very pleased to be in the mix,” said ISTE chief executive Don Knezek. “[ED] wanted us on board to make sure that we were reaching the largest possible group of stakeholders.”

Educators, too, agree it’s nice to have a say.

“I am excited about the prospect and will participate,” said Sandra Becker, technology coordinator for the Governor Mifflin School District in Berks County, Pa. “I am glad to see so many stakeholders involved.”

In Plano, Texas, where administrators tested a similar approach to soliciting comments regarding the district’s local technology plan, Associate Superintendent for Technology Services Jim Hirsch predicted the national plan would help schools cut back on unnecessary technology spending and focus their “limited resources” on proven investments that work.

“Reaching out to students and parents—the primary consumers of educational technology—promises to pay big dividends in terms of identifying the most appropriate technology resources and also in procuring local support for future technology initiatives,” Hirsch said. “By speaking to constituents throughout the country, the plan should contain a marvelous compendium of best practices for all of us to draw on.”

Despite his enthusiasm, Hirsch said the overall effectiveness of the new national technology plan would rely on how well ED interprets and uses the suggestions it receives.

“What’s interesting to me is that very little mention is made of the review process that will be utilized to synthesize all of the input that is being requested,” he said. “Are educators going to be involved in the review? Who is going to help translate many of the suggestions that may mean little to the typical educational technology leader, but [are] terribly significant for student use?”

ED did not provide specific answers to these questions before press time.

Still, the department’s leaders appear confident. “As technology continues to be an important part of children’s lives outside of school, it is shaping their expectations of what school will be like,” Paige said. “The National Education Technology Plan intends to explore this trend and the implications for creating digital-age educational opportunities to match the expectations of digital-age students.”

“Ultimately, this feedback will ensure that policy makers at all levels of government can understand how to use technology effectively and how states can employ technology to help meet the goals of No Child Left Behind,” said John Bailey, ED’s director of educational technology.

ED is accepting comments online through July 1.

Links:

National Education Technology Plan
http://www.NationalEdTechPlan.org

U.S. Department of Education
http://www.ed.gov

American Institutes for Research
http://www.air.org

International Society for Technology in Education
http://www.iste.org

State Educational Technology Director’s Association
http://www.setda.org

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$30 million for Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers To Use Technology (PT3)

The Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers To Use Technology Program (PT3) provides $30 million in grants to consortia to increase pre-service teachers’ proficiency in the use of modern learning technologies. The program is designed to prepare prospective teachers to use advanced technology to ensure all students meet challenging state and local academic content and student academic achievement standards and to improve the ability of institutions of higher education to provide this preparation. The U.S. Department of Education expects to award 75 awards ranging from $200,000 to $600,000.

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Up to $600 in digital media software

In the spirit of Father’s Day and educational development, Ulead Systems Inc., is offering a special promotion on its retail digital media software. Give dad or a recent grad an easy-to-use Ulead video or digital image software package priced between $50 to $129 and Ulead will donate between $200 to $600 worth of software to a non-profit organization that is dedicated to serving youth education and training programs. This limited-time promotion (May 28 to July 4 2003) lets anyone who purchases a retail version of PhotoImpact, VideoStudio, DVD MovieFactory, DVD PictureShow, or COOL 3D Studio donate a 5-seat license of the same product to a verified non-profit organization dedicated to serving youth education and training programs. Ulead software products can be purchased at: CompUSA, Fry’s, Micro Center, or Best Buy. Customers must fill-out a donation request form and mail it to Ulead along with the receipt. Contact Ulead for more information about how to qualify for this donation.

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States get $20 billion to help close budget gaps

School technology initiatives and other education programs are among the possible beneficiaries of $20 billion in state aid included in the $330 billion tax-cut legislation passed by Congress May 23.

Though education lobbyists say the latest federal aid is “nothing to scoff at,” they note it doesn’t come close to filling an estimated $75 billion in state budget shortfalls projected for the 2004 fiscal year.

The state aid was included in a package of new tax cuts for families, investors, and businesses approved by Congress late last week. The Republican-led Senate approved the measure 51-50, with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the decisive vote in the narrowly divided chamber. Two hours after midnight, the GOP-run House had used a 231-200 vote to sign off on the legislation, which President Bush was poised to sign at press time.

Of the $20 billion in state aid, half that amount is earmarked for the Federal Medical Assistance Program. The remaining $10 billion will be divvied out to states—on a population basis—to cover the cost of government-related programs, including education expenses.

States will receive $5 billion for the remainder of 2003, which will be allocated within 45 days of the legislation’s effective date. The other $5 billion will be applied toward the 2004 budget year and is scheduled for delivery after October 1.

To receive the funds, states must submit a proposal to the Treasury outlining what government services and programs the funds will be spent on.

“Certainly, the $10 billion will have the effect of providing all-purpose relief to states,” said Nick Johnson, director of the State Fiscal Project at the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “But this is only a modest piece of the overall solution.”

State budget shortfalls are expected to surge to $75 billion overall by the next fiscal year, according to a report issued in April by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Across the nation, state and school leaders are considering steep cuts in education services—including art and foreign language classes, school counselors and nurses, field trips and athletic programs, and technology—as they try to balance the rigorous demands of the No Child Left Behind Act with the need to slash budgets. (See “Budget ax falls on school tech programs,” http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=4407.)

Some states, Johnson said, are in such dire straits that this latest relief will hardly make a dent in overall budget deficits.

In California—where budget deficits are expected to climb above $30 billion, by some estimates—the $2.4 billion in relief that will come as part of the president’s tax plan will do little to stop the bleeding.

However, smaller states might enjoy considerable respite, Johnson said: “This should go a long way in addressing their immediate budget problems.”

Mary Kusler, policy analyst for the American Association of School Administrators, noted that education is one of a number of different needs that states probably will attempt to address with the money.

“It’s really going to boil down to what is the greatest need at that point,” she said. “We’ve just got to get these states some help.”

Internet tax moratorium

While the president’s latest tax-cut plan will deliver much-needed relief to states, another option for boosting state revenues now appears less likely.

The Bush administration wants Congress to extend a moratorium on states’ ability to collect internet-access taxes that is set to expire in November, Treasury Secretary John Snow says.

Snow, speaking May 15 at a gathering of technology company executives, said he and Commerce Secretary Don Evans submitted a letter to Congress urging that the moratorium remain in effect.

“Government must not slow the rollout or usage of internet services by establishing administrative barriers or imposing new access taxes,” Snow and Evans wrote.

In 2001, President Bush signed legislation extending the moratorium for two years; he had sought a longer extension.

The moratorium bars taxation only on internet access fees, like those paid by consumers to providers such as America Online. However, Congress also has failed to pass necessary legislation that would empower states to collect sales taxes on purchases made over the internet.

The only way such taxes are paid on interstate transactions is if a consumer voluntarily pays the tax to the state treasury or if the retailer voluntarily collects it on the state’s behalf. A group of retailers reached agreement earlier this year with more than 30 states to voluntarily pay the taxes.

Many state governments seeking additional revenue to close budget deficits have been eyeing internet sales, which continue to grow.

The National Governors Association has sought an end to the moratorium and congressional legislation allowing states to set up a taxing scheme. Collectively, states are losing billions of dollars a year in tax revenue. In 2002, retail internet sales reached $76 billion, or about 3 percent of all retail sales, according to an annual survey released May 15 by Forrester Research and the National Retail Federation.

Supporters of the moratorium argue that internet commerce is still in its nascent stages and needs to be cultivated, and that allowing states to impose sales taxes will curb growth in the sector.

Links:

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
http://www.cbpp.org

National Conference of State Legislatures
http://www.ncsl.org

American Association of School Administrators
http://www.aasa.org

U.S. Treasury Department
http://www.ustreas.gov

U.S. Department of Commerce
http://www.doc.gov

National Governors Association
http://www.nga.org

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New tool could speed diagnosis of ADHD

Exploring whether photographic images can help soothe stress led Eastman Kodak Co. to a chance finding: A man who exhibited erratic temperature changes turned out to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The discovery five years ago culminated this spring with Kodak donating seven patents to a Massachusetts research hospital in hopes of developing a new tool for identifying the neurobehavioral disorder that afflicts millions of Americans, including as many as 3.8 million school-age children.

“The diagnosis of ADHD is highly subjective—there’s no definitive test you can give someone that says they’ve got it or they don’t,” said Greg Foust, a research manager in Kodak’s System Concepts Center. “What this technology allowed us to do was not only definitively and objectively determine if someone had it, but also get a sense of the degree of the affliction.”

Kodak scientists spied the unusual temperature oscillations in one of 72 volunteers in a 1998 study. The researchers were just starting to examine whether images, sounds, and other distractions are useful in reducing stress levels or even treating psychiatric ailments such as depression.

Each volunteer, wearing headphones to block out sounds, was placed in an empty room or in front of a blank computer or television for 10 minutes and had temperature sensors attached to his or her pinky fingers.

Deprived of visual and audio stimulation, ADHD sufferers typically become stressed as they look for an outlet, Foust said. That stress drives changes in fingertip temperatures that appear to fluctuate differently than do those in non-ADHD patients, he said.

“The way their temperature changed was very erratic,” Foust said. “It would tend to decline or rise in a manner that was very bouncy, [whereas] in non-ADHD persons, the temperature change was very slow without a lot of oscillation.”

Two other people who displayed “jagged changes” in temperature readings also were found to be stricken with ADHD.

The disorder affects as many as 10 million adults in the United States. Its symptoms include short attention span, impulsive behavior, and difficulty focusing and sitting still.

Kodak did a follow-up trial in 2000 on 32 children—half of them diagnosed by doctors with ADHD—and found its method to be at least 84 percent accurate in spotting the disorder. The current diagnosis process is largely subjective because patients must be observed over long periods of time, often in both home and school settings.

In exchange for an $8 million tax benefit in this year’s first quarter, Kodak turned over its patented procedures to McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., a pioneer in ADHD research affiliated with Harvard Medical School. Kodak spokesman Anthony Sanzio said the hospital is much better suited to advance the research.

If the technology leads to a commercial product, the hospital will reap all the revenues.

“These inventions could help lay the foundation for improving the speed and accuracy of ADHD tests,” said Dr. Martin Teicher, who runs the hospital’s development biopsychiatry research program.

Experts not affiliated with Kodak or McLean cautioned that much more research is needed. Dr. Mark Wolraich, professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, questioned how well the temperature process can distinguish “those with an anxiety disorder from those with ADHD.”

Teicher said he doesn’t think the Kodak method “should be construed as a stand-alone test. It just adds some science to something that tends to be right now very much an art.”

Kodak, the world’s biggest photography company, is still testing whether images can help alleviate psychological problems. But the results of its work remain under wraps.

Links:

Eastman Kodak Co.
http://www.kodak.com

McLean Hospital
http://www.mcleanhospital.org

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
http://www.ouhsc.edu

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