Plano ISD, Spotsylvania named largest most high-tech school boards

The Free Lance Star reports that the Spotsylvania County (Va.) School Board was chosen as one of the most high-tech boards in the country by The Center for Digital Education and National School Boards Association. Spotsylvania finished second in the biggest school population category next to Texas’ Plano Independent School District.

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Utilities skeptical of providing broadband over power lines

The Boston Globe reports that utility companies are slow to test “broadband over power line” technology, which the Federal Communications Commission is pushing as a revolutionary way to deploy high-speed Internet access across American. Dozens of utilities have run trials but only one of 160 utility companies have embarked upon a for-profit rollout.

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Porn found on school computer can’t be used in teacher’s trial

The Potomac News reports that a Prince William County Circuit Court judge barred prosecutors from using evidence of pornography found on a Hylton High School teacher’s classroom computer because no one can prove who downloaded the video pornography found by Virginia State Police on one of the two classroom computers.

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Work with parents to become better mentors with help from this web site from EPIC


The nonprofit group EPIC (Every Person Influences Children) has launched an online resource for parents, teachers, school administrators, and community members to gain insight into the “whys” and “how tos” of effective parenting and character education. Backed by a $500,000 grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation, the site includes a section for parents–featuring topics such as “Helping My Children Learn” and “Managing Behavior”–as well as for teachers. In the Teachers section, educators will find strategies for working with parents and boosting student achievement. EPIC also takes a look at the challenges confronted by the nation’s schools–from funding dilemmas to professional development and stakeholder training. Thomas E. Baker, president of the John R. Oishei Foundation, said of the site, “EPIC approached our foundation with a vision for serving families through technology and the media. This comprehensive web site positions them to achieve exactly that. They’ve created a place on the web where parents, teachers, and community members can gain knowledge and become a positive force in the character education of our young people.”

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Maryland school administrator’s tech spending defended

The Baltimore Sun reports that the chairwoman of the Prince George’s County school board sent a letter to address concerns over schools chief Andre J. Hornsby’s relationship with vendors. Hornsby, who oversaw a $1 million instructional software purchase in June from LeapFrog SchoolHouse, didn’t disclose he lives with a saleswoman employed by the company.

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Virginia Tech’s Mac supercomputer is even faster

News.com reports Virginia Tech has ramped up the speed of its supercomputer, System X, to 12.25 teraflops, or 12 trillion calculations per second, up from 10.28 teraflops. The old version was made-up of 1,100 Power Mac G5 towers but Virginia Tech has added custom made 2.3GHz Xserve machines and 50 additional servers.

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Survey cites top 25 connected colleges

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) of Troy, N.Y., tops a list of the 25 most connected colleges and universities in the United States, according to a survey by The Princeton Review.

The second annual edition of the company’s “25 Most Connected Campuses,” issued Oct. 22, examines the technological capabilities of the nation’s higher education institutions and indicates which campuses employ the most cutting-edge tools to enhance teaching and learning.

“College campuses have always been hotbeds of technological innovation and experimentation,” the survey notes. “But today, as a generation of students raised on the internet take over the classrooms, technology is more important than ever. To be competitive and attract the best students, a school needs to offer the best infrastructure possible. It’s no longer enough to have a high-speed network on campus; you’ve got to have wireless, you’ve got to stream video of classes over the web, or you’ve got to give every new student a brand-new laptop.”

The 25 Most
Connected Campuses

1. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
2. Bryant University
3. DePauw University
4. Temple University
5. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
6. Cornell University
7. Duquesne University
8. The Catholic University of America
9. University of Pennsylvania
10. University of Georgia
11. University of Rhode Island
12. Rochester Institute of Technology
13. State University of New York at Buffalo
14. Hofstra University
15. Kansas State University
16. University of Colorado-Boulder
17. University of South Dakota
18. Fairfield University
19. University of North Dakota
20. University of Vermont
21. Boston University
22. Ursinus College
23. St. Mary’s College of Maryland
24. Bradley University
25. Suffolk University

RPI topped the list by requiring each student to own a laptop and by supplying the infrastructure necessary to take advantage of “anytime, anywhere learning.”

The school offers its students discounted laptops from IBM Corp., complete with appropriate educational software preloaded on the machines. Students reportedly can get online from anywhere on campus, with ethernet jacks and wireless access points in classrooms, lounges, and labs. Students also can download class notes or watch classes over a streaming video feed from the comfort of their own dorm rooms.

To support the technology, RPI has a full-service IBM repair shop on campus and provides loaner machines to students whenever the computers break down. All software and data can be transferred to the loaner, so that students leave the shop with the same capabilities they came in with.

“We live in a networked world, and if our students are to excel, we must provide them [with] access to sophisticated tools in a highly networked environment,” RPI President Shirley Ann Jackson said in a statement. “We challenge our students to develop the technologies of tomorrow, and to do that they must have the best that is available today.”

Survey Methodology

Here are the criteria used by editors at The Princeton Review to rank the technological sophistication of the nation’s colleges and universities:

Computers Per Student
The number of institutionally owned computers and workstations accessible by students, divided by the number of degree-seeking undergraduate students on campus.

Campus Network
Does the school have a campus-wide data network?

Wireless Network
Is there a wireless network on some portion of the campus?

Remote Access
Can students access their eMail when they are away from campus?

Provide Web Pages
Does the school provide students with space for posting web pages?

Online Courses
Does the school offer for-credit courses delivered online?

Registration
Can students register for classes online?

Online Administrative Functions
Are administrative functions other than registration–such as tuition payments and adding or dropping courses–available online? This criterion also was used as a tiebreaker in the event that two or more schools had the same score, tying them for a slot in the top 25. Editors at The Princeton Review reviewed the depth of functions available to students and gave the advantage to schools that indicated more advanced capabilities.

Ownership Requirements
Are students required to own a computer while attending school?

Computer Purchase
Does the school have a special pricing, discount, or resale agreement with hardware vendors?

Handheld Computing
Does the school have special programs or coursework available specifically for handheld devices, or does it offer IT support specifically for these devices?

Streaming Courses
Does the school stream audio or video of any of its courses online?

Dorm Access
Is network access available in dorm rooms?

Lounge Access
Is network access available in dormitory lounges?

Ethics
Is a computer ethics policy in place for the school?

Usenet
Is a USENET feed available to students?

Computers Provided
Does the school’s tuition include a computer for each student?

Multimedia Equipment
Does the school provide multimedia equipment such as digital cameras, digital video cameras, scanners, or professional-quality printers?

Emerging Curricula
Does the school offer courses in computer security, video gaming, or robotics?

Digital Streaming
Does the school stream audio or video of its campus radio or TV stations online?

Because every student has a computer, professors can require the use of certain software applications and online learning tools without worrying about who has access to the programs and who doesn’t, said Jim Kolb, RPI’s chief information officer.

The ubiquity of technology on campus–from wireless laptop computers to hands-on design and research labs–gives students and teachers an opportunity to interact and share ideas no matter where they are on campus, Kolb said: “An awful lot of good learning goes on outside the classroom, too.”

Rounding out the top five schools are Bryant University of Smithfield, R.I.; DePauw University of Greencastle, Ind.; Temple University of Philadelphia; and the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. (For the complete roster of Top 25 schools, see accompanying list.)

To determine the rankings for its “Most Connected Campuses” list, The Princeton Review solicited data from 357 top colleges and universities around the country, asking them 20 questions about the technological sophistication of their campuses.

Editors at The Princeton Review assigned point values to each question based on the perceived importance of that aspect of campus life. Some of the more heavily weighted factors included the ratio of computers to students; whether a campus-wide network is in place; whether the school has a wireless network; whether students can register for classes online; and whether the school streams video or audio of courses online. (For the full criteria, see related story.)

To refine its ratings and reflect the importance of emerging technologies, The Princeton Review made several changes to last year’s survey, adding questions ranging from whether a school offers network access in its dorm lounges to whether it has a computer-ethics policy in place.

As a result of these changes, as well as new initiatives under way at the surveyed campuses, the rankings have changed radically since last year. Only four schools in last year’s top 25–Bryant University, UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of South Dakota, and Hofstra University–appear on this year’s list.

Links:

The Princeton Review
http://www.princetonreview.com

“America’s Most Connected Campuses”
http://www.forbes.com/connected

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
http://www.rpi.edu

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New game entertains while offering kids tips for street safety

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) reports that a New Brunswick company has designed a video game that teaches kids about staying safe on the streets. The game, called Sydney Safe-Seeker and the Incredible Journey Home, is aimed at children between the ages of 5 and 10. A New Brunswick school system is already using the game, which combines entertainment with potentially life-saving lessons.

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UNC system starts file-sharing pilot

Four schools in the University of North Carolina (UNC) system will participate in a pilot program that will allow students to download music, movies, and other copyrighted material on the internet for free.

Four digital content providers–iTunes, Ruckus, Cdigix, and Rhapsody–are participating in the test runs spearheaded by UNC system administrators, who for years have been searching for a solution to illegal file-sharing on campus.

The universities will be responsible for monitoring any computers hooked into their networks and are expected to remove copyrighted files that are shared illegally.

Several UNC system schools–including UNC-Chapel Hill–have been involved in legal battles over students’ use of campus networks to illegally download files.

Dozens of individual universities nationwide have launched legal file-sharing programs in response to the music industry’s push to stop illegal sharing. UNC reportedly is the first university system to do so.

“We lead a lot,” said Tom Warner, director of coordinated technology for the UNC system. “That’s one of the joys of being one of the largest university systems in the country.”

The pilot schools–North Carolina A&T State, Western Carolina, UNC-Wilmington, and the North Carolina School of the Arts–were chosen based on interest and technological capabilities, Warner said.

The state’s largest schools, UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State, are slated to join in the spring. If the pilot program proves successful, the entire UNC system eventually would be brought online.

Campuses would be able to select among the providers based on student feedback. Students probably will have to pay a fee for the program once the testing phase ends.

Similar services nationwide charge students $2 to $5 a month, officials said.

The cost of the test run will be covered by a major music label, which Warner said was impressed with UNC’s ingenuity and agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the project. Warner declined to release the label’s name or the cost of the pilot program.

The initiative was officially announced Oct. 14, but A&T had begun testing the Ruckus service about two weeks before that.

Ruckus offers about 500,000 songs from various labels, including Universal Music Group, Warner Music, and Sony. Three other U.S. universities use the service, company officials said.

About 40 people–at least half of whom are students–already have access to Ruckus at A&T, said Sam Harrison, associate vice chancellor for information technology and telecommunications.

Students will be brought on in increasing numbers, and the entire campus could have access as early as this spring.

“We’re just starting to get to the point where the rubber meets the road,” Harrison said. “We’ll start to ratchet it up, but we need to see how it goes.”

Other schools across the country have taken similar steps to curb illegal file sharing.

Besides the UNC system, at least 20 universities–including Pennsylvania State University, the University of Miami, and Northern Illinois University–have signed deals with Ruckus, Napster 2.0, RealNetworks Inc., and other licensed download services to provide students with discounted downloading or free music streaming, according to a report issued earlier this year by a committee of entertainment industry executives and university leaders. (See “Schools praised for piracy prevention,” http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=5228.)

Many universities also have made the anti-piracy message a fixture of student orientation sessions. Others, meanwhile, are using technology to filter or block illegal file-sharing activity on their networks.

“It’s quite clear that every university has gotten the message that this is a serious issue, and they’re all doing something,” said Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America. “There really has been a fundamental change.”

Links:

University of North Carolina system
http://www.northcarolina.edu

iTunes Music Store
http://www.apple.com/itunes/download

Ruckus Network
http://www.ruckusnetwork.com

Cdigix
http://www.cdigix.com/website/cdigix

Rhapsody
http://www.rhapsody.com

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

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