Take prinicpals back to school with these strategies from “e-Lead”

The Institute for Educational Leadership and the Laboratory for Student Success have created a web site called e-Lead, a free online resource intended to provide states and school districts with information about how to provide better professional development for school principals. The web site suggests that professional development works best when it is focused on sound learning strategies, driven by a clear definition of leadership, conducted within the context of an overall plan, anchored by leadership standards, designed and implemented according to proven practices, and evaluated through processes that seek meaningful results. To help stakeholders select effective program options, e-Lead contains a searchable database of professional development courses complete with a comprehensive summary about each initiative’s design, implementation, and desired impact or effectiveness. Also, a unique Leadership Library feature offers annotated information about a number of leadership development issues and links to the latest information and resources.

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“Magnetic Storm” explores a jolting theory about the Earth’s atmosphere

This latest online feature from the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) poses the question, “Is the magnetic field protecting Earth from deadly radiation about to reverse direction–or even disappear?” Based upon the PBS documentary that shares its name, “Magnetic Storm” explores the wonders of the G5 geomagnetic storm, a weather event strong enough to disrupt power grids from Canada to New York last year. In fact, researchers suggest the most serious power grid failure in American history was caused by a magnetic storm in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, itself triggered by the eruption of a huge flare from the surface of the sun. Unusual as this event might have been, many scientists today are beginning to worry that it could be a harbinger of things to come–and that changes to the planet’s magnetic field could make us ever more vulnerable to deadly radiation from space. The program first aired Nov 18. On its companion web site, students and teachers will find related articles and interactive activities designed to illustrate the significance of this major meteorological event.

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“Project Vote Smart” is a clear choice for 2004 campaign information

With another presidential campaign season kicking off in earnest with the first state primaries this month, teachers no doubt will be looking for resources to help their students follow the events. Calling itself “a citizen’s organization dedicated to serving all Americans with accurate and unbiased information for electoral decision-making,” Project Vote Smart (PVS) contains information about thousands of candidates and elected officials, including biographies, issue positions, voting records, campaign finances, and performance evaluations. Students and teachers can look up information about candidates and use these findings for school projects or to help them make well-informed voting decisions. PVS also contains a feature called CongressTrack, which monitors recent federal legislation and even supplies a calendar for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. In addition, users have access to voter registration forms for each state; contact information for state and county election offices; ballot measure descriptions for each state (where applicable); and links to federal and state government agencies, political parties, and organizations.

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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:
http://www.aalsolutions.com
(800) 668-8486
See the ad for AAL Solutions on page 8

Axonix Corp., of Salt Lake City, provides network storage and video sharing appliances. Visit Axonix’s web site:
http://www.axonix.com
(800) 866-9797
See the ad for Axonix on page 36

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:
http://www.centuryltd.com
(800) 852-2566
See the ad for Century Consultants on page 17

Cisco Systems Inc., of San Jose, Calif., is committed to helping schools take advantage of internet-based learning by providing eLearning initiatives and other programs designed to address the exchange of information and personal security in an increasingly digital world. Visit the Cisco Systems web site:
http://business.cisco.com/prod/tree.taf%3Fasset_id=77639&ID=77639&public_view=true&kbns=1.html
(800) 553-6387
See Cisco’s ad on page 5

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), 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:
http://www.cosn.org
(888) 604-5209
See CoSN’s ad on page 12

CRI Advantage Inc., of Boise, Idaho, deploys experienced delivery teams and application developers to deliver, manage, and support eMail and instant messaging systems, data warehousing, internet and server platforms and infrastructure, mission-critical applications, and specialized solutions in schools and elsewhere. Visit the CRI Advantage web site:
http://www.criadvantage.com
(208) 343-9192
See the ad for CRI Advantage on page 14

ePALS Classroom Exchange, of Ottawa, is the world’s largest and fastest growing online classroom community, connecting more than 4.5 million users from around the globe. Visit the ePALS web site:
http://www.epals.com
(613) 562-9847
See the ad for ePALS on page 33

Films for the Humanities and Sciences, of Princeton, N.J., is a leading supplier of educational media to schools, colleges, and libraries. Visit the Films for the Humanities and Sciences web site:
http://www.films.com
(800) 257-5126
See the Films for the Humanities and Sciences ad on page 31

Fortres Grand Corp., of Plymouth, Ind., is a software security company dedicated to protecting public-access computers from malicious and inexperienced users and providing customizable options for administrators who need to lock down systems and isolate problems. Visit the Fortres Grand web site:
http://www.fortres.com
(800) 331-0372
See Fortres Grand’s ad on page 13

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

Global Internet Management Inc., of Bala Cynwyd, Penn., is a provider of innovative technical, operational, and management eBusiness solutions. Visit the Global Internet Management’s web site:
http://www.gim.net
(610) 617-4515
See Global Internet Management Inc.’s ad on page 15

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:
http://go.grolier.com
(888) 326-6546
See Grolier’s ad on page 16

Hewlett-Packard Co. North America of Palo Alto, Calif., 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:
http://www.hp.com/go/k12solutions
(800) 88-TEACH
See HP North America’s ad on inside back cover.

IBM Corp., headquartered in Armonk,N.Y, provides powerful tools that help enrich educational programs. Visit the IBM web site:
http://www.ibm.com
(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:
http://www.macromedia.com
(800) 470-7211
See Macromedia’s ad on the back cover

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 20

Microsoft Corp., of Redmond, Wash., is a world leader in software for personal, business, and education use. Visit Microsoft’s web site:
http://www.microsoft.com
(425) 882-8080
See the Microsoft ad on page 11

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 9

NetSupport Inc., of Cumming, Ga., is a member of the PCI Group of companies, developers of a range of award-winning remote control and IT training products. Visit NetSupport’s web site:
http://www.netsupport-inc.com
(888) 665-0808
See NetSupport’s ad on page 18

Serious Magic Inc., of Rancho Cordova, Calif., is looking to create the next generation of visual communication tools. The company’s Visual Communicator software enables students to create everything from school broadcasts to multimedia projects in just minutes. Visit the Serious Magic web site:
http://www.seriousmagic.com
(916) 859-0100
See the ad for Serious Magic on page 10

Thinkronize Inc., of Cincinnati, is the producer of NetTrekker, an award-winning and trusted search engine for schools. Visit the NetTrekker web site:
http://www.nettrekker.com
(877) 517-1125
See the ad for NetTrekker on page 19

The Toshiba America Group, with headquarters in New York City, specializes in advanced electronics and is a recognized leader in products that enhance the home, office, industry, and health care environments. Visit the Toshiba America web site:
http://www.toshiba.com/tai-new/index.jsp
(800) GO-TOSHIBA
See the ad for Toshiba on page 7

United Learning, a division of Discovery Communications, is a leading provider of streaming media and video content for supplemental classroom instruction. Visit the United Learning web site:
http://www.unitedlearning.com
(800) 323-9084
See the ads for United Learning on pages 23, 25, and 28

eSchool News Online Partners

Be sure to visit eSchool News Online www.eschoolnews.org and the School Technology Buyer’s Guide www.eschoolnews.org/buyersguide to learn more about these leading companies that believe an informed educator is their best customer:

Chancery Student Management Solutions, of British Columbia, helps K-12 educators and administrators gather, manage, analyze, and apply student data to enhance student achievement. Visit Chancery’s web site:
http://www.chancery.com
(800) 999-9931

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:
http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/reports/erate or http://www.erateconsulting.com
(888) 249-1661

MacsDesign Studio, of Fremont, Calif., provides a web-based help desk software solution that easily can manage a school district’s computer problems and repairs.Visit the Web Help Desk web site:
http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/reports/nrm or http://www.webhelpdesk.prospector.com
(866) 701-0227

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:
http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/reports/video or http://www.TechSmith.com
(800) 517-3001

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Schools in 5 more states to benefit from Microsoft deals

Disadvantaged schools in five more states and the District of Columbia stand to benefit from the latest round of antitrust settlements from Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft agreed to settle class-action antitrust and unfair competition lawsuits brought by customers in these regions for vouchers worth $200 million. The settlements, announced Oct. 28, would end those lawsuits in Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Tennessee, in addition to Washington, D.C.

The cases involve customers who joined in class actions alleging that Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft violated state antitrust laws and laws against unfair competition.

The Kansas case was settled for $32 million, the North Carolina case was settled for $89 million, and the District of Columbia case was settled for $6.2 million, said Brad Smith, Microsoft senior vice president and general counsel. Those three settlements had been approved by the courts.

He did not give figures on settlements for the other three lawsuits, which had yet to be approved by the courts before press time. However, Henry Howe, a Grand Forks, N.D., attorney who was a plaintiff, said the North Dakota case was settled for $9 million pending the court ap-proval.

In all, Microsoft has now settled similar lawsuits in nine states and the District of Columbia for a total of $1.55 billion. Agreements were announced earlier this year for lawsuits in California, Florida, Montana, and West Virginia.

The company said class actions are still pending in Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.

Under the settlements, Microsoft will provide vouchers for customers to purchase hardware, operating systems, training, and software from various vendors, including Microsoft and a key rival, Apple Computer. Half of the unused vouchers will be given to schools in these states to help needy children.

“To look at all this in perspective, it’s clear that we’ve made a good deal of progress in the past year,” Smith said. “And it’s clear that we have to keep focusing, keep moving forward.”

He said the company is working to improve relationships with other companies and with the government.

Microsoft said it has already set aside adequate reserves for the settlements.

“It’s not a hugely significant amount, but it does count against income,” said Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. “With $100 million here and there, it’s somewhat significant when you’re talking about a company with net income of $2.6 billion per quarter.”

Curtis Wolfe, chief information officer for the state of North Dakota, said he anticipates the coupons will represent “a significant windfall” for North Dakota schools, especially given the fact that a tight budget year has precluded educators from spending as much as they would have liked on technology.

“Certainly in North Dakota, we constantly find ourselves challenged to update technology,” he said. Those challenges have grown in recent years as North Dakota has turned to distance learning as a means of broadening the scope of classes available to students in some of the state’s more rural areas.

Forty-three North Dakota school districts, with a total of about 8,300 students, qualify for the settlement based on their number of low-income students. To qualify, at least 50 percent of a district’s students must be eligible for reduced-fee or free lunches under the national school lunch program.

Given that the money can be used by schools to purchase a wide array of technology equipment, Wolfe said educators would welcome the vouchers.

“I am absolutely confident that we’ll make excellent use of this settlement,” he said.

See this related link:

Microsoft Corp.
http://www.microsoft.com/education/?ID=K12Savings

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Apples are in, board members are out in laptop flap

Frustrated by the local school board’s decision to spend $1.7 million to provide Apple laptop computers for some junior high students but not others, residents of Stillwater, Minn., voiced their opposition by unseating three board members, while selecting a newcomer from the ballot and electing two write-in candidates in the Nov. 4 elections.

It took only a month of campaigning for write-in candidates Nancy Hoffman and Christopher Kunze to harness the public’s anger over the decision, which critics also said was an unnecessary expense in a time of tight budgets.

Though it’s unclear whether the election results will change the district’s laptop plans, observers say the incident serves as a stark reminder for school leaders nationwide of the importance of getting stakeholder buy-in before launching any ambitious technology initiative–as well as a compelling lesson in the power of the internet to mobilize support.

Stillwater’s anger runs deep

In late September, district officials announced that Oak-Land Junior High School, one of two area junior high schools, would become one of four National Demonstration Sites for student laptop computing during the next five years.

The program was created by Apple Computer to nominate schools of high standing that could further promote effective learning by integrating portable and wireless computing into the curriculum.

The district’s other junior high school, Stillwater Junior High School, also will take part in the program as a study site. The initiative will allow the schools to be part of a national network dedicated to sharing curricula and teaching methods to improve education for students, officials said. Both schools will receive extensive training, wireless access, microscopes, computers, and other digital equipment.

For Hoffman and Kunze, the plan seemed to come out of the blue. It also seemed part of a larger pattern of the school board acting without enough public input.

So they decided to do something about it.

With a month left before Election Day, the two–who knew each other only slightly at the time–started campaigning together as write-in candidates to send the district a message that residents were fed up.

That message was received–and then some–on Nov. 4 when Hoffman and Kunze were elected to the school board and the three incumbents who had voted for the laptop plan were defeated.

In an interview with eSchool News, Hoffman–who said she supports the use of technology in schools–cited cost and equity as her two main objections to the district’s laptop plans.

A large chunk of the district’s technology budget would be used to fund the program, she noted, even though the benefits would be reaped primarily by students at the two junior high schools. Further, while Stillwater students would have the computers for use in school, only Oak-Land students would be allowed to bring the machines home with them.

Hoffman also questioned whether district officials had made provisions for potential down-the-road costs, including additional support staff, maintenance, and related platform concerns likely to result as school technology leaders mull the switch from PCs to a predominantly Macintosh architecture.

According to school officials, the program will cost $340,000 per year for five years. The district said it plans to pay for the program by extracting $250,000 a year from the annual district-wide technology budget and $90,000 from Oak-Land’s existing capital budget. In addition, Apple has agreed to pay for training of school employees, installation services, and any additional network equipment.

But Hoffman and others opposed to the contract argue that pulling a quarter of a million dollars a year from a technology levy of $700,000 isn’t the best use of taxpayer money, especially in light of current budget shortfalls. “It’s just not cost-effective given the tight budgets,” she said.

Hoffman suggested the money could have been better spent at the high school level, where computers and other resources already have been stretched thin. As it stands now, the Stillwater Area High School could receive replenishment computers from the middle school, if and when the laptops arrive.

In defense of its actions, the district said it chose the program as a way to bolster student achievement.

“The decision to take part in this program stems from the district’s commitment to raising student achievement to the top 1 percent of students nationally,” officials said in a statement.

“All of our students will benefit by what we learn at Oak-Land and Stillwater Junior High School,” added Superintendent Kathleen Macy.

District officials had not returned an eSchool News reporter’s telephone calls before press time.

A lesson in electronic campaigning

Write-in candidates win school board seats from time to time, said Mike Torkelson of the Minnesota School Boards Association, but two in one race is highly unusual.

The scale of what Hoffman and Kunze accomplished impressed even some district residents who favor the laptop plan.

Afton resident Jim Amaral, a laptop proponent, said he is disappointed the board will be losing the experience and leadership of defeated incumbents Mary Cecconi, Christy Hlavacek, and John Uppgren.

“But I have to say, this is democracy in action,” he said. “What a great lesson.”

As soon as the district made the deal with Apple to provide students and teachers at Oak-Land Junior High with round-the-clock access to laptops, which would eventually be returned to the district, Hoffman and other residents started looking around for write-in candidates.

Someone told her about Kunze, a Stillwater resident with two young children who had been toying with the idea of running for school board. Hoffman approached him, and they decided to pool their resources.

Kunze, a computer consultant, became the computer guru, setting up a web site with biographical information about himself and Hoffman as well as their stand on the laptop issue. The site also had campaign posters people could download and stick on their cars.

Hoffman, a Stillwater resident with three children–including one at Stillwater Junior High, where students are not getting laptops for home use–coordinated the dozens of friends who came forward to volunteer.

Some made fliers, others brought literature door-to-door or passed it out at local meetings, and most called their friends or sent out eMail messages letting people know exactly how to enter Hoffman’s and Kunze’s names on Election Day.

Hoffman’s and Kunze’s campaign seemed to touch a nerve with Stillwater-area voters.

Close to 18 percent of the district’s registered voters submitted ballots, which was a higher turnout than surrounding districts and impressive given the lack of a levy question, said Kevin Corbid, who oversees Washington County’s elections. About 27 percent of the more than 20,000 votes cast went to Hoffman and Kunze, a figure that election officials said was unusually high for write-in candidates.

Technology and equity are hot-button issues in many communities, especially as budgets have been cut or stretched to the breaking point in recent years, said Nora Carr, senior vice president of public relations firm Luquire George Andrews Inc. and an eSchool News columnist.

“Parents want equal access to the best technology the district has to offer, same as they desire access to any other perceived advantage for their children,” she said.

But that often puts districts in an impossible situation, Carr said. Budget constraints make corporate partnerships and offers very attractive–but if these partnerships come with a lot of strings attached, competitors and others are not going to be very happy about them. Budget issues also mean that new technologies have to be phased in, she said, which means some students are going to have access to the latest technology and some are not.

“Communication with all constituency groups has to be much more extensive than in years past, and issues can flare up and become white-hot much more quickly, putting surprised administrators on the defensive,” Carr said.

“The only way to manage potential issues is to get out in front and communicate, communicate, communicate throughout the process. The web and direct marketing through electronic newsletters or e-blasts to key constituents can be very effective tools in this new 24-7 world we find ourselves in.”

What Carr said she finds most intriguing about this situation is that a few parents were able to quickly put together a web-based write-in campaign and win.

“Superintendents … and other district communicators need to catch up to where their constituents already are,” she said. “If you can’t get a compelling, jargon-free eMail message on an important issue out to key people in your community in 30 minutes or less, you’re simply not prepared to communicate effectively in the new media age.”

Despite Hoffman’s and Kunzie’s success, it’s unclear whether the election results will change anything about the laptop initiative. Superintendent Macy said the contract with Apple will be executed as planned, because breaking it would cost the district too much money.

See these related links:

Stillwater Area Schools
http://www.stillwater.k12.mn.us

Hoffman’s and Kunze’s web site
http://www.usecommonsense.us

Apple Computer Inc.
http://www.apple.com

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Linux providers aim to lure schools with discounts

Aiming to make further inroads into the education market, two leading providers of Linux-based software have announced major discount programs targeted at United States schools. The promotions mark an attempt to shift education customers from proprietary operating systems such as Windows to less expensive, open-source alternatives–an increasingly alluring option for school technology leaders in light of waning budgets.

In November SUSE, a German provider of open-source software, launched the SUSE Linux Education Program, which provides students, educators, school districts, universities, and nonprofit organizations with 40-percent discounts on a variety of SUSE solutions, including the company’s Linux Desktop system as well as its Standard Server and Enterprise Server products.

“The SUSE Linux Education Program provides the education sector with the fastest growing high-end computing technology at an affordable price,” said Holger Dyroff, general manager of the company’s Americas division, in a statement. “We think this will help drive the penetration of Linux even further by exposing the next generation of programmers and computer users to the benefits and versatility of open-source software.”

The discounts are available through SUSE’s United States resellers, CCVSoftware and RICIS Inc.

On Dec. 3, North Carolina-based Linux provider Red Hat Inc. responded to rival SUSE’s announcement with a similar promotion of its own, intended to make its open-source software more appealing to schools. According to the company, students and staff members of qualified institutions now can purchase Red Hat Academic solutions at a “fraction of the cost” of proprietary systems.

For students, Red Hat offers its Enterprise Linux WS Academic Edition, which provides a desktop environment–including the operating system platform as well as personal productivity applications–for a subscription price of $25 a year.

Schools now can purchase Red Hat’s server software for just $50 a year. The Enterprise Linux AS Academic Edition includes applications for network infrastructure, web hosting, and High Performance Computing (HPC) server farms.

If a school or school system is considering a large-scale deployment of Linux, Red Hat recommends its Site Subscription. Priced at $2,500 per year, a basic package includes unlimited service subscriptions to Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS Academic Edition for all systems personally owned or operated by students and staff members. It also includes a Red Hat Network Proxy Server and network management entitlements, enabling institutions to simplify their support of all systems.

“This is a welcome move by Red Hat to enable universities to use premium Red Hat Enterprise Linux at a very low cost,” said Frank Starmer, associate provost for information technology at the Medical University of South Carolina. “We see this as a very rational pricing structure and are eager to deploy the [software].”

What makes Linux different is that unlike most proprietary operating systems on the market today, the source code for Linux is shared freely among users, who are allowed to add to or change it at will. This communal approach, proponents contend, can save schools thousands, if not millions, of dollars in total cost of ownership.

But while the operating system is free to users, skeptics of the open-source movement caution that integrating a Linux-based platform does cost money. Unlike a Microsoft OS, for example, the Linux platform does not come readily equipped with applications for word processing, eMail, and web browsing. Instead, companies such as SUSE and Red Hat sell these and other tools as bundled distributions to schools and businesses. The companies also offer service and support options to customers–all of which add to the solution’s total cost.

Emily Trask, an analyst with Boston-based Eduventures Inc., doesn’t think the discounts alone will be enough to lure most schools away from Windows or Macintosh systems.

“There are some interesting things happening [with Linux] that could offer potential benefits for schools, but we’re not really seeing widespread adoption as of yet,” she said, noting that K-12 institutions exist in a culture where reliability and support are far more important than flexibility.

See these related links:

Red Hat
http://www.redhat.com

SUSE
http://www.suse.com/us

Eduventures Inc.
http://www.eduventures.com

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Penn State launches ‘free’ digital music service for students

In an apparent campus first aimed at undercutting the music file-swapping craze, Penn State University will offer students free digital music from the newly relaunched Napster service, university officials said Nov. 6.

The service provides music for listening and limited downloading. However, if students want to keep a song or burn it to a CD, they will need to pay 99 cents per song.

Napster’s collection of some 500,000 songs will be available in January to some 18,000 students living in residence halls on several Penn State campuses, including the main University Park campus. Next fall, the service will be available to all 83,000 students throughout the university system. In addition, Penn State faculty, staff, and alumni will be offered discounted Napster 2.0 memberships.

Students won’t be charged directly for the basic service. Instead, Penn State will use part of the $160 technology fee students pay each semester to fund the program.

The university’s goal is to give students the music options they need for free, eliminating the incentive to use peer-to-peer file-sharing sites, Napster president Mike Bebel said.

Besides draining the bandwidth of school computer networks, illegal file sharing has made students the target of lawsuits by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Faced with a growing number of subpoenas and cease-and-desist letters, many schools are looking for legal alternatives for their students.

Ian Rosenberger, president of the Undergraduate Student Government at Penn State, said six students have been testing the service.

“To this point they’ve been pretty thrilled,” Rosenberger said. “There’s kind of an all-encompassing effect that some of the illegal services don’t have that the students really liked.”

Rosenberger said students will be able to stream music at no cost. They will also be able to download a song and move it to a digital music player for a brief period of time for free, he said.

He conceded that some students will probably balk at having to pay for permanent downloads, but said many will be satisfied with being able to move songs to portable music players.

“I’m really excited about the whole thing, and I’m really interested to see how the students like it,” he said. “I think we’re going to see a lot of different student voices on the whole thing, so we’ll get an interesting perspective in the next few months.”

“When I went to search all the different songs that I like, it was very rare that anything wasn’t there that I wanted,” said Julie Vastyan, one of the six students who tested the service. “In my opinion, I think it’s a great program. I think the positives far outweigh the negatives.”

For some students, though, those negatives–specifically, the fee for regular downloads–are substantial.

“It sounds OK, but when I download a song I don’t want to be limited,” said Kristen Marks, a sophomore from Maryland who said she often downloads music free of charge from Kazaa and other peer-to-peer file-sharing sites. “I definitely don’t want to pay a dollar a song.”

Some students who were put off by the recording industry’s lawsuits object to the service out of principle.

“I feel like I’m paying the RIAA,” Chad Lindell, a senior at Penn State’s campus in Erie, Pa., told the Los Angeles Times.

University President Graham B. Spanier co-chairs the Joint Committee of the Higher Education and Entertainment Communities with Cary Sherman, head of the RIAA. The committee was formed to find ways to curb illegal music swapping on college campuses.

The committee said earlier it was exploring ways that universities could provide free or discounted music to students as a way to eliminate illegal song sharing through university computer networks.

“[Spanier] is a real leader in this, and he’s talked in the past about ways to do this,” said Josh Bernoff, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc. “By doing this, they manage to not only potentially block piracy but remove the reason why anyone would want to do it.”

He said he knows of no other university using such a strategy to combat piracy but expects other schools to follow suit.

In late October, two MIT students who developed a system to give students in university dorms legal access to thousands of songs over the school’s cable television network were shut down by the university because of concerns the service was not licensed.

The students said they had negotiated rights for Seattle-based Loudeye to sell MP3s for the system, but the Harry Fox Agency, which handles mechanical licenses for the National Music Publishers Association, said no licenses had been granted to either MIT or Loudeye. (See “Update: MIT shuts down alternative file-swapping network,” http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=4757.)

Software maker Roxio Inc. launched Napster 2.0 on Oct. 29. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company acquired the Napster brand from the ashes of the free pioneer file-swapping service, which was forced to shut down in 2001 after a protracted legal battle with recording companies.

Napster 2.0 users have access to more than half a million songs from all the major music labels. They can download individual songs for 99 cents and albums for $9.95. The service also offers access to unlimited downloads and streaming for $9.95 per month.

Spanier would not say how much the university will pay for the service, nor how long the contract would run. He did say that, to his knowledge, Penn State is the first university to make such an arrangement.

See these related links:

Penn State University
http://www.psu.edu

Napster 2.0
http://www.napster.com

Recording Industry Association of America
http://www.riaa.org

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Called to task on VoIP

After reading your article on voice over IP solutions (“Voice over IP: Your call,” November/December 2003), it seemed like we must be in a different dimension.

We installed a VoIP solution from 3Com, and we had none of the problems your contacts were talking about. It took about three months total, including training. We have 190 phones and nine buildings.

The 3Com NBX system does not run on Windows at all, so maybe that’s why our system is so reliable–and, of course, we have no virus issues. I would not want to rely on Microsoft products for something critical like our phone system. We have had no down time at all. We had one problem that turned out to be a problem with our T1 line from Verizon (our phone company).

We have uninterruptible power supplies at every wiring cabinet (we already did), and if we lose power in the district, the phone system stays up for about 45 minutes–but the power has not been down that long. Our old wired phone switch went down immediately when we lost power.

We didn’t have to put in any additional wiring at all and we have no performance problems, we did not have to fool around with any packet setting or anything else. It just works.

Most modern phone systems are digital, so you can’t use fax machines or modems on them, either. Our old Rolm system at my IBM office 15 years ago was digital.

Maintenance is a breeze with our web-based control program: We can add, modify, or change anything right from our desks.

This is a poor district with two tech people, and the phone system is not a service issue. Obviously the 3Com NBX system has something going for it. You probably should have talked to installations supplied by some other vendors.

Roger Ransom, Director of Technology, Bangor Public Schools, Bangor, Mich.

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Test-score argument fails to resonate

As a long-time reading instruction specialist, I must take exception to your rejection of the validity of standardized reading test scores (SRTS) in your editorial in the November/December issue (“Beware the beguiling idea”). Please let me explain why.

It is well-established empirically that SRTS correlate highly with judgments by teachers as to how well their students can read.

It is equally well-settled that SRTS are a more reliable form of reading performance measurement than are teachers’ opinions of the reading ability of students. That is to say, SRTS are more “objective” assessments of students’ progress in learning to read than are the views of this matter by teachers at large.

The cost-effectiveness of various kinds of reading instruction is best evaluated through the collection of SRTS.

No reputable reading instruction specialist I know of contends that SRTS are “infallible” evidence of students’ reading proficiency, your views to the contrary notwithstanding. However, SRTS are not a “murky gauge” of how well students can comprehend written material.

Patrick Groff, Professor of Education Emeritus, San Diego State University

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