Prizes for outstanding student-created web sites

The ThinkQuest competition, sponsored by the Oracle Foundation, promotes multicultural collaboration and learning by encouraging students to develop creative web sites focused on topic categories. Students between the ages of 9 and 19 are invited to form teams of three to six students, supervised by a teacher-coach. Teams will have approximately five months to work on their web sites, focusing on their chosen topic area. Contest winners will receive prizes from the Oracle Foundation, including travel to the annual ThinkQuest Live event. In addition, national winners may be honored and awarded prizes by national partners of the foundation. Web sites must be entered by Sept. 21.

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$9,000 for exemplary, inquiry-based science lessons

Delta Education LLC and NSTA have partnered to recognize and honor three science teachers who successfully use inquiry-based science to enhance teaching and learning in their classroom. Full-time preK-12 science teachers are eligible to apply for one of three awards, each valued at $3,000. Each award includes $1,500 for the awardee and $1,500 toward travel and expenses for next year’s NSTA National Convention in Atlanta.

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Senate OKs extension of internet tax ban

The U.S. Senate yesterday voted overwhelmingly to extend an internet-tax ban for four years, stopping short of endorsing the permanent ban approved earlier this year by the House. The two chambers now must try to work out their differences over an issue that pits the telecommunications industry against state and local governments.

For educators and education advocates, the issue cuts two ways. If Congress winds up enacting a permanent tax ban, more parents and other school stakeholders might be able to afford high-speed internet access at home, giving more students the opportunity to use broadband technologies to extend their educations beyond the traditional school day. On the other hand, banning such taxes permanently could deprive schools of much-needed revenue, especially at a time when school leaders are struggling to balance their budgets.

These are just two of the issues facing the nation’s lawmakers as they debate legislation that would prohibit states from taxing internet service providers.

Congress first blocked state and local taxes on the services that connect consumers to the internet in 1998. The ban lapsed while lawmakers tried to rewrite it and cover new high-speed and wireless connections, generally known as broadband.

The Senate settled its differences on April 29, voting 93-3 to restore the tax ban for four years.

“This bill will ensure that consumers will never have to pay a toll when they access the information highway,” said Senate Commerce Committee John McCain, R-Ariz. “Plainly and simply, this is a pro-consumer, pro-innovation, and pro-technology bill.”

President Bush had asked Congress to permanently ban the levies. He said the Senate’s action moved the nation closer to banning the taxes to “help make high-speed internet services more affordable, increase the number of broadband users, and enhance our nation’s economic competitiveness.”

Senators made multiple changes to ease concerns of some governors-turned-senators who worried the ban could drain billions in tax dollars from state and local governments.

One change clarified that the ban did not apply to state and local taxation of voice telecommunication services, including Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. That technology allows consumers to use the internet to make telephone calls.

Some senators had worried that without the change, telecommunications companies could evade virtually all taxes as they migrated their communication systems onto the internet’s backbone. Other senators wanted to ensure that states couldn’t find loopholes to tax not-yet-imagined wireless and broadband connections.

Sen. George Allen, R-Va., said the strong consensus about the ban’s technological scope settled April 29 could make it easier to negotiate for a ban longer than four years, but he added the House needs to accept the “reality” of some senators’ unease with a permanent ban.

States that already had started taxing internet connections before the 1998 ban preserve their right to continue collecting the payments under the Senate bill.

The Senate voted 59-37 to kill a proposal that would have extended the same rights to states that started taxing high-speed Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) connections after the 1998 tax ban. Those states imposed the taxes by arguing that DSL, which is delivered through a phone line, could be treated the same way as telephone services.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said those DSL taxes violate the spirit of the 1998 law, which aimed to lower the cost of the internet and speed its spread through all communities.

The 17 states with DSL taxes have two years to phase them out.

The bill is S. 150.

Links:

Information about S. 150
http://thomas.loc.gov

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$85,000 for teachers who incorporate economics into lessons

The NASDAQ National Teaching Awards are designed to advance economic literacy in schools nationwide by recognizing middle and high school teachers who are helping students make sound, informed decisions and function well in the economy. This competition is open to all teachers of students in grades six to 12 who incorporate economic education into the classroom in any subject area. One national grand-prize winner will receive $25,000 (which includes his or her $10,000 regional award), five regional winners each will receive $10,000, and 20 regional semifinalists will receive $1,000 each. Each of the five regional winners also will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City with a guest to accept the NASDAQ National Teaching Award for Teachers in the year following the contest.

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$10 million to build community technology centers

The Community Technology Centers program provides an estimated $10 million to help eligible applicants create or expand community technology centers that will provide disadvantaged residents of economically distressed urban and rural communities with access to information technology and related training. Eligible applicants are community-based organizations (including faith-based organizations), state and local educational agencies, institutions of higher education, and other entities, such as foundations, libraries, museums, public and private nonprofit organizations, and for-profit businesses, or consortia thereof. Grant awards will range from $250,000 to $500,000.

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$1,500 to a science teacher who creatively uses movies to teach

The Science Screen Report Award is given to one teacher who has creatively used commercially available films or videotapes to develop a science unit or theme. The prize includes $1,000 cash and travel expenses of up to $500 to attend the NSTA National Convention in Atlanta, where the Science Screen Award will be presented.

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Test and evaluate your internet connections with these free online utilities

From internet performance management and security solutions provider Visualware comes a new web portal featuring four free online tools that internet users can use to check their online connection speed, trace IP addresses, and identify their system configurations. One of the tools now available on the site, VisualRoute, is being used in schools, colleges, and universities across the nation to illustrate how the World Wide Web works. With VisualRoute, students can view the results of trace-route, ping, and who-is utilities in one easy-to-read table. VisualRoute also has the unique ability to identify the geographical location of routers, servers, and other IP devices, and plot the path on a world map. In addition, the software helps computer users detect problems within their own networks and see how packets of information move along the internet backbone. If a particular web site is slow to load or unavailable, a VisualRoute trace can show the location of a server or router causing the problem. Other tools include MySpeed, a real-time test of your download and upload connection speeds; CPUInfo, which provides quick verification of your system’s key parameters, such as processor speed, model number, and cache settings; and WhoAmI, a tool that lets you quickly verify your computer’s internet connectivity diagnostics, including operating system type and version, local and external IP addresses, internet gateway, and web access.

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$5,000 plus travel expenses for teachers who changed students’ lives

The Turnaround Management Association (TMA), which is dedicated to corporate renewal and turnaround management, has established a new award to honor teachers who have changed the outcome of children’s lives. Three to five primary or secondary teachers who have demonstrated exceptional dedication and skill in shaping and influencing children’s lives through education will receive a $5,000 cash stipend, plus transportation to and lodging for TMA’s annual convention, where the award will be presented.

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$1 for every recyclable ink cartridge collected

Staples Inc. will donate $1 to public schools for every eligible ink cartridge they collect.
Staples created the “Staples Recycle for Education” program in July 2003 to encourage cartridge recycling at its 1,100 U.S. stores but has now expanded the program nationwide. Staples now provides prepaid postage for shipping the cartridges and an account number so schools can monitor the status of reimbursement checks and total collection counts. Parents or teachers can log on to the web site below to register their school and receive a welcome kit that includes flyers to announce the program.

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More than $5,000 to improve science, math, and technology education

The Toshiba America Foundation encourages projects that can improve classroom teaching and learning of science, math, and technology. Proposals from individual teachers or groups of teachers in grades 7-12 will be considered for funding. Proposals are welcomed from public or private schools throughout the United States, but the foundation gives priority consideration to schools in Toshiba America company locations. Grant requests in excess of $5,000 must be received by no later than the first working day in February for March consideration or the first working day in August for September consideration. Smaller grant proposals (under $5,000) are accepted throughout the year. Decisions about small grants are made monthly, except in March and September. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the foundation before or during the proposal preparation process.

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