Studies: 90 percent of kids now use computers

Need some help navigating the Net? Your best consultant might be a kid. At school and at home, today’s children and teens are so computer savvy and comfortable online that they’ve become technology pacesetters, two new government studies show.

The studies, released Oct. 29, provide further proof of the important role schools play in closing the technology-access gap between children from low-income backgrounds and their more affluent peers. But the studies also point to the need for teachers and school leaders to incorporate computers and the internet more fully into students’ daily experiences.

About 90 percent of people ages 5 to 17 use computers, and 59 percent of them use the internet–rates that are, in both cases, higher than those of adults. Even kindergartners are becoming more plugged in: One out of four 5-year-olds uses the internet.

These figures come from a new Education Department analysis of computer and internet use by children and adolescents in 2001. A second report from the agency, based on 2002 data, shows 99 percent of public schools have internet access, up from 35 percent eight years ago.

“Children are often the first adopters of a lot of technology,” said John Bailey, who oversees educational technology for the department. “They grow up with it. They don’t have to adapt to it. … Students, by and large, are dominating the internet population.”

By the time they’re age 10, 60 percent of children use the internet. That number grows to almost 80 percent for kids who are 16.

“The dramatic increase in younger kids’ use of technology is not disconnected from what’s going on with their parents and their families,” said Peter Grunwald, whose California research firm tracks technology trends by annually surveying students and parents.

“Younger kids are likely to have younger parents, and it is those parents, especially mothers, who have a much higher comfort level with technology than older parents–or even younger parents of five years ago.”

A substantial number of children have or plan to have their own web sites, Grunwald said.

Like adults, young people are going online for a range of reasons, the government research shows. Almost three in four use the internet for help with school assignments, and more than half use it for writing eMail, sending instant messages, or playing games.

Girls, who not long ago used computers and the internet at lower rates than boys, have essentially eliminated that difference, the research shows. But there are other notable gaps.

Almost two-thirds of young white people use the internet, but less than half of black people ages 5 to 17 do, and slightly more than a third of Hispanic young people log on. Part of the reason is access–80 percent of black students use computers at school, for example, but only 41 percent do so at home, according to the 2001 report.

“We need to address the limited access to technology that many students have outside of school,” Education Secretary Rod Paige said. “There is much more we can do.”

From rural areas to the suburbs to cities, almost every public school is wired for the internet. Ninety-four percent of schools now connect using broadband, and schools now have one computer with internet access for every five students, the research shows. As a result, more children and teens use computers at school than at home.

However, young people are more likely to access the internet at home than at school–an indication, Bailey said, that many teachers are not yet comfortable enough with the online tool to incorporate it into class. That must be a target area for improvement, he said.

Schools are using the internet to keep parents updated about their kids’ performance and to improve student access to a range of textbooks, advanced courses, and test-preparation programs. Almost all schools say they take measures to block internet access to inappropriate web sites.

Beyond internet availability, basic computer access continues to shape classroom instruction.

At Waston Lane Elementary in Louisville, Ky., 5-year-olds spend 15 minutes a day on the computer, listening to stories and pronunciations of letters. They also practice computer skills by coloring the electronic way–clicking on colors to fill in shapes.

The report on computer and internet use by children and adolescents was based on September 2001 interviews conducted with members of about 56,000 households. The report about internet access in public schools was based on a fall 2002 survey to a representative sample of schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The release of the reports came the same day that the nonprofit NetDay and the communications company BellSouth Corp. invited tens of thousands of students to comment on how to improve technology in their schools. Ideas gathered online will be given to the Education Department with the goal of influencing the nation’s next educational technology plan.


“Computer and Internet Use by Children and Adolescents”

“Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms”

Net Day


Learn how to instill good habits with this computer recycling web site

From Dell Inc. and the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) comes a new program designed to raise awareness of computer disposal issues and help consumers rid themselves of unwanted equipment. The initiative, which began Oct. 10, is a follow-up to the company’s recent 15-city National Dell Recycling Tour, which collected nearly 2 million pounds of used computer equipment this past spring and summer. Through this latest endeavor, Dell hopes to share what it learned during the tour with university and community recycling coordinators, empowering them to conduct future collection events in their own communities as a means of environmentally responsible recycling. The NRC web site provides all sorts of resources to promote more responsible computer recycling. As part of the partnership, Dell and NRC also have developed a best-practices guide, part of an outreach toolkit they plan to release soon on a national scale.


partners index

AAL Solutions Inc., of Ontario, offers a district-wide student information web solution called eSIS for real-time information access from a centralized location. Visit AAL’s web site: (800) 668-8486 See the ad for AAL Solutions on page 18

AlphaSmart Inc., of Los Gatos, Calif., develops and markets affordable and effective technology solutions for the education market. Visit AlphaSmart’s web site: (888) 274-0680 See AlphaSmart’s ad on page 9

America Online, based in Dulles, Va., offers schools a safe and easy internet content program at no cost. Visit the AOL@School web site: (888) 648-4023 See the ad for AOL@School on page 13

Axonix Corp., of Salt Lake City, provides network storage and video sharing appliances. Visit Axonix’s web site: (800) 866-9797 See the ad for Axonix on page 40

Century Consultants Ltd., of Lakewood, N.J., has been helping school districts manage information in innovative ways since 1977. Visit the Century Consultants web site: (800) 852-2566 See the ad for Century Consultants on page 33

The Consortium for School Networking, of Washington, D.C., is a national nonprofit organization that promotes the use of information technologies and the internet in K-12 education to improve teaching and learning. Visit CoSN’s web site: (888) 604-5209 See CoSN’s ad on page 36

CrossTec Corp., of Boca Raton, Fla., is the maker of the award-winning NetOp family of remote management and training software products. Visit the CrossTec web site: (800) 675-0729 See CrossTec’s ad on page 47, of San Diego, provides a solution for assessment, technology planning, and implementation for schools, districts, and related agencies. Visit’s web site: (800) 748-6696 See’s ad on page 38

Eduventures Inc., of Boston, provides organizations in the corporate, postsecondary, and preK-12 learning markets with analysis and insight necessary to make strategic decisions. Visit the Eduventures web site: (617) 426-5622 See Eduventures’ ad on page 34

EnGenius Technologies, of Costa Mesa, Calif., provides long-range voice and data technologies for homes, schools, and businesses. Visit the EnGenius Technologies web site: (888) 735-7888 See the ad for EnGenius Technologies on page 17

eRate Consulting Services LLC, of Woodstock, Ga., provides up-to-date information and services to help applicants and service providers with the eRate process. Visit the eRate Consulting Services web site: (888) 249-1661 See the ad for e-Rate Consulting Services on page 21

eRate Elite Services Inc., of Owings Mills, Md., is a management firm that specializes in meeting the needs of applicants seeking eRate funding. Visit the eRate Elite Services web site: (866) ERATE-ES See the ad for eRate Elite Services on page 24

Everyday Wireless LLC, of West Lawn, Pa., researches, develops, and markets wireless technologies that make people’s everyday lives safer and easier. The company’s primary focus is on pupil transportation. Visit the Everyday Wireless web site: (866) 896-1721 See the ad for Everyday Wireless on page 10

eZedia Inc., of Winnipeg, is a leader in digital media software technology, with a product line that includes multimedia authoring tools and other professional enhancement applications. Visit eZedia’s web site: (877) 408-0195 See the eZedia ad on page 35

Funds for Learning LLC, of Arlington, Va., and Edmond, Okla., is an educational technology consulting firm specializing in the federal eRate program. Visit the Funds for Learning web site: (877) 752-5222 See the Funds for Learning ad on page 37

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: (888) 888-0294 or (888) 888-0438 See the Gateway ad on pages 2 and 3

Grolier Online, headquartered in Danbury, Conn., and now part of Scholastic Library Publishing, provides schools with a wide array of online reference and research materials, from Encyclopedia Americana to the New Book of Popular Science. Visit the Grolier Online web site: (888) 326-6546 See Grolier’s ad on page 20

Hewlett-Packard Co. North America includes the company’s K-12 education division (part of the Enterprise Systems Group), which offers a host of technology products, services, and solutions to help transform schools into 21st-century learning environments. Visit HP’s K-12 Solutions web site: (800) 88-TEACH See HP North America’s ad on page 55

IBM Corp., headquartered in Armonk, N.Y, provides powerful tools that help enrich educational programs. Visit the IBM web site: (866) 426-1740 See IBM’s ad on page 15

Macromedia Inc., of San Francisco, provides industry-leading software that empowers internet developers and designers. Visit the Macromedia web site: (800) 470-7211 See Macromedia’s ad on page 14

Maryland Public Television, of Owings Mills, Md., provides a free financial literacy web site, called Sense and Dollars, as part of Thinkport, a comprehensive online resource for educators and families. Visit the Maryland Public Television web site: (410) 356-5600 See the Maryland Public Television ad on page 39

Microsoft Corp., of Redmond, Wash., is a world leader in software for personal, business, and education use. Visit Microsoft’s web site: (425) 882-8080 See the Microsoft ads on pages 5, 27, 28, 32, and 48

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: (800) 466-4526 See the ad for MiLAN Technology on page 11

Nextel Communications Inc., of Reston, Va., is a leading provider of fully integrated, all-digital wireless service. Visit the Nextel web site: (888) 639-8354 See the Nextel ad on page 19

Pearson Education Technologies, of Mesa, 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: (888) 627-LEARN See the ad for Pearson Education Technologies on the back cover

ProQuest Information and Learning Co., of Ann Arbor, Mich., is a division of Proquest Co. and the producer of eLibrary, an affordable and user-friendly general reference tool. Visit ProQuest’s web site: (800) 521-0600 See the ProQuest ad on page 7

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: (800) 533-5430 See the Sagebrush ad on page 12

SMART Technologies Inc., of Calgary, is a market leader in developing products for shared spaces, including the SMART Board, an electronic interactive whiteboard. Visit the SMART Technologies web site: (888) 42-SMART See the SMART Technologies ad on page 16

Wireless Information Networks Inc., of Willowbrook, Ill., is entirely focused on wireless LAN and WAN integration and development. Visit the Wireless Information Networks web site: (630) 288-0072 See the ad for Wireless Information Networks on page 8

ZT Group International, with offices in New York City and New Jersey, is a leading supplier of computer systems, network services, storage solutions, notebook computers, and peripherals to schools and businesses. Visit the ZT Group web site: (866) 984-7687 See the ad for ZT Group on page 41

eSchool News Online Partners

Be sure to visit eSchool News Online

and the School Technology Buyer’s Guide to learn more about these leading companies that believe an informed educator is their best customer:

eRate Consulting Services LLC, of Woodstock, Ga., provides up-to-date information and services to help applicants and service providers with the eRate process. Visit the eRate Consulting Services web site: or (888) 249-1661

eZedia Inc., of Winnipeg, is a leader in digital media software technology, with a product line that includes multimedia authoring tools and other professional enhancement applications. Visit eZedia’s web site: or (877) 408-0195

TechSmith, of Okemos, Mich., makes software that enables students, faculty, and staff to capture and share text, video, and graphics from software applications and the internet easily. Visit TechSmith’s web site: or (800) 517-3001

Thinkronize Inc., of Cincinnati, is the producer of NetTrekker, an award-winning and trusted search engine for schools. Visit the NetTrekker web site: or (877) 517-1125

Web Help Desk, from MacsDesign Studio of Fremont, Calif., is a web-based help desk software solution that easily manages a school district’s computer problems and repairs. Visit the Web Help Desk web site: or (866) 701-0227


Track and compare each state’s progress toward NCLB compliance with this online database

This site, courtesy of the Education Commission of the States, is billed as a “one-stop shop” for determining just how close schools nationwide are to meeting the demands of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The NCLB Database offers access to a range of information regarding the progress of all 50 states toward satisfactory federal compliance. Information in the database reflects state laws, departmental regulations, board rules, directives, and practices related to 40 requirements across seven major sections of the legislation–and it’s all up to date. The data, compiled by ECS researchers in conjunction with state policy makers and their staff members, will be updated frequently as policies change, the site’s creators say. The database allows administrators and other education stakeholders to access comparative data, allowing them to gauge the progress of their own states compared with others around the nation. The site also contains important advocacy information ranging from election issues to political data.


Schools turn to web for suicide prevention aid

Faced with a growing number of student suicides, some schools are trying to combat the trend by offering depressed students the anonymity of the internet to seek mental health counseling.

More than 80 universities have signed up so far for, which provides students with an anonymous and nonthreatening link to their schools’ mental health centers for information, counseling, or to schedule appointments.

At the same time, the free program gives universities the chance to help ailing students by using a favorite tool: the internet.

“It’s a tragic element of college life that suicide is part of it,” said Peter Likins, president of the University of Arizona. “Often times, people in depression are not able to go to mental health services that are available on campuses. They’re embarrassed. [But] some of these youngsters may be willing to explore on the internet and get some anonymous feedback.”

The suicide rate among 15- to 24-year-olds has tripled since the 1950s, and now stands at 9.9 deaths per 100,000 people. is designed as a template that can be customized to the needs of any college or university to reflect the programs and policies of its mental health center. The site provides universities with a free resource for bringing existing mental health services to their student population and complements, rather than replaces, the mental health information students already receive, the site’s creators say.

In addition, Ulifeline’s “Go Ask Alice!” service reportedly answers about 1,500 mental health questions a week from college and high school students, parents, teachers, older adults, and others.

A mental health and drug information library also is available to students through a resource called IntelliHealth, which features the consumer health information of Harvard Medical School. More than 150 health care organizations contribute to the breadth of its content, which is reviewed for accuracy by medical professionals, according to the site’s creators.

Finally, software developed at Duke University allows Ulifeline users to be screened for various categories of depression. The Duke Diagnostic Psychiatry Screening Program provides valuable direction to both students and counselors and links to a professional contact within the university health-care community.

The diagnostic tool is not meant to take the place of an evaluation by a physician or mental health professional. However, a positive result suggests that the student would benefit from comprehensive mental health screening, according to the site.

The web site is one of several programs offered by the Jed Foundation, which was created by Phil and Donna Satow after their 20-year-old son Jed took his own life in 1998 by hanging himself.

Phil Satow said the internet is the perfect medium to teach the current generation of students about the signs of depression. Realizing they missed those signs has been difficult for Jed’s friends to live with, he said.

“That’s what’s been so devastating for them,” Satow said. “That’s one of the reasons they felt this web site was so important.”

Jay Zimmerman, the associate director of Ball State’s counseling center, said the web site can help eliminate the stigma associated with mental health disorders.

“The more students who access our web site, the more information they have, the more likely they are to get help or get help for their friends,” he said. “And, the more likely they are to lead happier, healthier lives.”

See this related link:


ED’s revamped web site aims to be more user-friendly

The U.S. Department of Education is revamping how it delivers tools and resources to stakeholders. The agency’s newly redesigned web site is one of the steps ED said it’s taking to make information and resources more readily available to educators, parents, and students alike. “This redesigned site can help reduce the time teachers, parents, and others spend looking for information, so they can spend more time using it to help children learn,” said Secretary of Education Rod Paige. Among the latest improvements is the reorganization of data into five major categories: grants and contracts, financial aide for students, education resources, research and statistics, and policy. Officials also have added customized pages for teachers, principals, parents, students, institutions of higher education, grantees, and technical assistance providers. Each visitor now has the option to personalize his or her own version of the site, so users automatically see information about the topics that interest them specifically. Developers also have been working to improve the site’s search engine so that queries can be answered with greater speed, accuracy, and reliability, ED officials say.


Your online voice: How can you set the tone?

“… We are all writers. Maybe not Writers with a capital ‘W.’ But writing is our most powerful tool. … Like an offline facilitator who has to develop his or her public speaking skills, we have to develop our writing. We must learn to write with as many ‘voices’ as we use offline. Quiet, direct, energetic, reflective–all of them” (White).

Does your online voice encourage, motivate, and support others? Does your online voice promote a safe and inviting learning environment that leads to an increase in participation and fostering of relationships?

In a traditional, face-to-face classroom setting, we are able to communicate through verbal and nonverbal cues. We are able to understand one another by reading body language and listening to the tone in which words are being spoken. However, in an online learning environment it becomes difficult to express and interpret these types of communication.

Online we depend on text to convey our thoughts, emotions, and personalities. Those new to the online environment might not be accustomed to sharing their thoughts in a face-to-face environment, much less online. Online learners are, therefore, not only responsible for learning the online course material, but are responsible for learning how to communicate with each other online as well.

These are factors that hold true for the facilitator, too. The facilitator must possess and exhibit an online voice so that others will contribute to the learning environment and seek to find their own online voice.

“To encourage effective discussion and learner participation, it is important to build a setting in which learners feel comfortable and respected” (Hiemstra). It is up to the online facilitator to set the tone for the online course so that learners are comfortable enough to interact and build relationships with other learners, including the facilitator.

So, as an online facilitator, how does one use his or her online voice to establish an online environment where learners feel that they are acknowledged, that their anxieties are eased, and that appropriate online behavior is modeled for them to emulate?

  • Address everyone, neglect no one. “The facilitator needs to pay careful attention to welcoming each student to the electronic course and reinforcing early attempts to communicate. … Send many individual messages to students commenting on their contribution, suggesting links to other students, suggesting resources, and generally reaching out to students. The coaching function is key to easing the students’ transition to computer-mediated communication” (Davie).
  • Reveal your persona. Learners will communicate their persona through their online voice. It is only fair that a facilitator should reciprocate this by allowing learners to hear their personality through their own online voice. Facilitators should take opportunities to share personal or professional stories when appropriate, and/or write a detailed biography giving insight about their life.
  • Reach out to the “lurker.” If participants are insecure, seem to hesitate in posting, or have not posted for a lengthy period of time, offer assistance, assurance, or perhaps an invitation to come back through personal communication (FaciliTips).
  • Be flexible. Believe people have good intentions, and allow second chances. Remember that we are bound to make mistakes–and you might need some compassion yourself at some point, too.
  • Have a sense of humor. Some lightheartedness can be reviving, break tensions, and reduce stress. However, use humor with consideration. Humor can be confused with sarcasm and can lead to defensiveness.
  • Provide constructive feedback, not general comments. Remember, it’s probable that a number of hours were dedicated to completing an assignment. Giving broad comments only diminishes student work. Whenever possible, provide detailed constructive criticism: Elaborate on strengths and weaknesses, point out areas with potential growth and improvement. This shows personal interest in students, has tremendous impact on their future efforts, and serves to spark their motivation.

Facilitators might not have total control over the outcome of the online course, but they are able to influence the course as it progresses. Because communication in an online course is text-based, it is important for facilitators to develop an online voice that sets the foundation for a supportive learning environment.

Davie, Lynn. “Facilitation Techniques for the On-Line Tutor,” 1989.

“FaciliTips: Quick Tips for Online Facilitation.” Full Circle Associates, December 2001.

Hiemstra, Roger and Rae Wahl Rohfeld. “Moderating Discussions in the Electronic Classroom,” November 2000.

White, Nancy. “But I’m Not a Writer!” Full Circle Associates, March 2003.

Martha Vasquez is a third-year high school math teacher. She is currently part of the Cyber Pathway at her school, which prepares students pursuing a career in computer technology. She is working to complete her masters degree in online teaching and learning and hopes to facilitate an online math course for high school students soon.


Chart the past–and present–of geographic exploration with this site commemorating Lewis and Clark

Commemorating 200 years since Meriwether Lewis and William Clark embarked on their pioneering expedition throughout North America, ESRI, a maker of geographic information systems (GIS) software, has developed a new web site called “Lewis and Clark 200.” The site provides an introduction to modern techniques of exploration, as well as a detailed history of mapmaking–from the tools first used by the famous pair’s Corps of Discovery to more recent cartographic methods such as GIS, a computer-based tool for mapping and analyzing places and events. What’s more, the web site offers many resources for geographic study, including classroom learning guides and links to Lewis and Clark maps and journals. The expedition and its bicentennial commemoration provide an evocative starting-off point for students interested in the study of geography, as well as an opportunity to use technology to understand changing environments. Today, geographic technologies are used to pinpoint the location of people, define landscape features, carefully manage the use of resources, and plan for sustainable development, according to the site.


“Smithsonian Education” crafts lessons from the nation’s rich stores of cultural treasures

The Smithsonian Institution has launched a new educational web site where students and teachers can go to explore the findings and artifacts of all 16 Smithsonian museums, as well as the National Zoo and the Smithsonian’s many world-class research centers. The site contains nearly 1,000 educational resources searchable by both grade level and subject area. For educators, provides resources to plan, prepare, and teach hundreds of lessons focused on a wide variety of subjects–from history and culture to science and technology. All lessons are correlated with national education standards. “Explore, Discover, and Learn,” the web site’s highly interactive student section, includes a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum complex, as well as historical information about its collections and book lists intended to help students continue their research after school hours. Thinking of taking a field trip to the nation’s capital? The site’s family section offers all sorts of ideas for fun and educational things to do while in town.


Microsoft launches new tech training program for schools worldwide

Microsoft Corp. has unveiled a new worldwide program to train teachers and students in technology and to help integrate technology into the curriculum and learning. The initiative will provide at least $250 million in cash grants, as well as discounts on Microsoft software.

The program, called Partners in Learning, will establish local Microsoft IT Academy Centers that will provide student skills certification, teacher development, curriculum and assessment tools, school-based technology support, and research.

The Partners in Learning program also offers participating schools steep discounts on buying Microsoft software. Specifically, disadvantaged primary and secondary schools will receive free upgrades to Windows XP Professional, and they will be able to buy Microsoft Office Suite for prices below the current educational pricing.

Microsoft did not say how it would define “disadvantaged.”

The program comes as government and educational agencies worldwide have been adopting or considering software from Microsoft competitors, including Linux software. The open-source software, which is freely available and can be improved upon by an open community of developers, has been gaining favor with agencies including France’s ministry of education, China’s post office, and the city of Munich.

But the Partners in Learning program, unveiled at Microsoft’s Government Leaders Forum in Rome Sept. 17, is not in response to Linux, said Sherri Bealkowski, general manager of Microsoft’s Education Solutions Group. Rather, the company wants to help students around the world attain “eLiteracy.”

Besides grants and the discounts, Microsoft will allow some developing countries to receive free software to install on donated personal computers. India, Thailand, Malaysia, Brazil, and Italy already have signed up for the program, Microsoft said.

Reaction to Microsoft’s announcement among school leaders in the United States was mixed.

Kathy Schrock, technology coordinator at Nauset Public Schools in Orleans, Mass., said she welcomes the initiative.

“Since the Office suite and the Microsoft products–whether on the Windows or Mac platform–are the standard in the industry right now, I feel that any training that can help our teachers and students succeed is great,” she said. “Any support that teachers and students can get to help them use the tools more effectively is always welcome.”

In addition, she said, “a center that showcases what can be [done] will allow teachers and students to stretch their imaginations and spark their creativity for effective infusion of technology to impact teaching and learning.”

Dennis Dempsey, superintendent of the High Desert Education Service District in Redmond, Ore., said the program has potential, but he questioned whether $250 million would address the needs that schools around the world currently have to train teachers and students.

“I think it might be a good start, but the cost to do something like this worldwide would seem to me to be overwhelming,” he said.

Others wondered whether Microsoft’s actions were merely self-serving.

“I can’t believe Microsoft has anything but profit in mind as it rolls out the Partners in Learning program,” said Doug Otto, superintendent of the Plano, Texas, Independent School District. “If the company was so intent on helping schools, it would have provided deep discounts for school districts and also not been so Scrooge-like with its licensing agreements.”

Dale Mann, managing director of educational technology consulting firm Interactive Inc., had a different perspective.

“Anything that supports teachers in actually using technology is welcome, but the irony is that Microsoft typically does not use technology to teach technology,” he said. “Instead, as with its state leadership grants, [the company] relies on labor-intensive, face-to-face interactions that are older than DOS and even less effective.”

See these related links:

Microsoft Corp.

Partners in Learning press release