Popular broadband having major effect on Americans’ lives

An Associated Press story, carried by The New York Times, reports that more Americans are now accessing the internet via broadband connections that via dial-up. Broadband is in 53 percent of U.S. web-users’ homes, and is opening up doors to many new types of communications, including phone calls through the internet and an increase in video chatrooms. (Note: This site requires registration.)


Pennsylvania grant puts Tungstens in eighth-graders’ hands

The Bucks County Courier Times of suburban Philadelphia reports that a Pennsylvania Hands-on Technology grant enabled a local middle school to give Palm Tungsten T handhelds to several of its eighth-graders. Each school that received the grant was able to buy up to 35 handhelds.


More students sued for illegal file sharing

Students of at least four universities were among 754 computer users served with copyright infringement lawsuits by recording companies on Dec. 16, the latest round of legal action in the industry’s effort to squelch unauthorized swapping of music online.

Among the named defendants were 20 computer users suspected of swapping songs over university networks, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a trade group for the largest music companies.

The college and universities attended by students named in the lawsuits included the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University in New York, Old Dominion University, and State University of West Georgia.

As in previous cases, the new lawsuits were filed against “John Doe” defendants–identified only by their numeric internet protocol (IP) addresses. Music company lawyers must obtain the identity of defendants by issuing subpoenas to internet access providers.

The four universities are the latest to be served with subpoenas by the recording industry. In May, students at 21 universities were among another 532 people sued for illegally sharing digital music files online.

In response to the current legal problems faced by some of its students, spokeswoman Lisa Ledbetter said administrators at West Georgia have actively sought ways to reduce the amount of file-sharing across the school’s network.

“Information Technology Services at the State University of West Georgia takes numerous steps to avoid this misuse of the network,” she said.

Among these steps, technology administrators monitor network traffic in student residence halls, taking note of any unusual spikes in usage that could be triggered by instances of illegal file-swapping.

“Then they investigate such traffic to see what it is,” Ledbetter explained.

If it is illegal file-sharing, which is against university policy, the incident is turned over to the Office of Residence Life and the students involved are presented with cease and desist letters.

On a second offense, she said, students are cut off from using the network.

Though none of the universities were named as defendants in any of the most recent cases, and there is no indication whether lawyers for the music or movie industries eventually will target schools that permit illegal file-sharing themselves, content providers have made one thing clear: liability–in their eyes, at least–extends well beyond the user.

As recently as last week, copyright holders set their sights on operators of internet servers used to swap files online, sending a flurry of threatening letters that caused at least one popular file-sharing site to shut down its network.

A note posted on Suprnova.org, which facilitated sharing among users of the BitTorrent program, said the site was “closing down for good.” The collection of links to downloadable files–including music, movies, and books–was taken down.

“We are very sorry for this, but there was no other way, we have tried everything,” the statement said.

Reached via Suprnova.org’s chat room, the site’s anonymous operator refused to comment.

BitTorrent, which allows users to share large files online rather easily, has grown in popularity exponentially in the past year and now accounts for more than a third of all traffic on the internet, according to the research company Cachelogic. Last week, movie studios sued more than 100 operators of U.S. and European sites that host BitTorrent links but did not name the defendants.

The Motion Picture Association of America said it is planning similar action against operators of servers that direct data for the DirectConnect and eDonkey file-swapping services.

In all, recording companies have sued 7,704 computer users since September 2003.

To date, 1,475 defendants have settled their cases out of court, the RIAA said. Settlements in previous cases have averaged $3,000 each.


Recording Industry Association of America

Motion Picture Association of America

Subpoena Defense


Pilot program brings 503 Dell laptops to Corpus Christi school

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports that a local middle school is getting $650,000 worth of wireless laptops because it’s among the schools chosen to participate in the Texas Education Agency’s Technology Immersion Pilot program. The school used its money to buy 503 laptops from Dell. (Note: This site requires registration.)


Surprisingly popular toy preparing kids for standardized tests

The New York Times reports that a hot new toy called Time Tracker is helping children over the age of 4 prepare for standardized tests. The $34.95 item forces children to perform under pressure, enabling them to develop a better sense of time management. Needless to say, parents are more enthusiastic about the toy than their children. (Note: This site requires registration.)


Teens learn college degree necessary for IT employment

The Indianapolis Star reports that although some young tech superstars manage to earn a good living despite skipping college, it is becoming harder and harder for these teen whiz kids to make it in the technology industry. In 2000, there were 40,000 people under age 19 working in computer-related jobs. Today that number has dropped to 18,000.


High school initiative brings computers to low-income homes

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Torrey Pines High school of Carmel Valley, Calif., is giving away refurbished computers to students whose families are unable to afford them. The initiative, called Computer Crossroads, involves finding local businesses willing to give up their old machines and then handing these over to tech-savvy students capable of refurbishing them.


Scandal brewing as Texas scores reveal possible cheating

The Dallas Morning News reports that Texas state test data indicates that dozens of schools might be cheating on the TAKS test. At one poor urban school, for example, third- and fifth-graders fared poorly on the state reading assessment, but the school’s fourth-graders had better scores than students at elite schools — even though many students at the school in question struggle to speak English. As a result of the newspaper’s study, three Texas districts are being investigated for cheating, and one of the schools under suspicion is a former National Blue Ribbon School.


Helping State and Local School Districts Stay On Track

iAssessment’s architecture allowed Utah State Office of Education to develop a web portal to position all the teacher development, grant management, and individual assessment resources in a single, customizable system.

Balancing state and local needs

The Utah State Office of Education (USOE) serves the 486,938 K-12 public school students throughout the state of Utah while supporting their 22,640 teachers and administrators. It serves its 40 school districts and another 26 charter schools by developing the state core curriculum, licensing educators, and assisting with professional development.

Like many states, USOE was looking for a decision-support system as part of a statewide data model that could simultaneously support individual district needs. They were looking for a program that could not only satisfy NCLB requirements, but a system that could foster the effective use of statewide data to improve assessment, resource utilization, and classroom instruction. At the same time, Utah districts demanded the flexibility and autonomy to meet state requirements in a way that best met their individual and specific needs. Without such a system, administrators on both the local district and state levels were carrying heavy workloads which negatively impacted the support they could offer their teachers.

iAssessment builds the foundation for success

iAssessment was contracted to deploy a decision support architecture utilizing its True North Logic (TNL) Solution Suites. The customized statewide system is called “On Track.” TNL allows administrators to effectively manage inherent challenges such as access control, distribution, integration, personalization, and scalability. It also allowed USOE to connect various disparate databases and systems, and provides a centralized management system to unify and integrate On Track with existing state-owned databases and computer systems. As a result, Utah now has a centralized, web-based, up-to-date database of teacher training programs and resources that can be accessed anywhere in the state.

Next, iAssessment created a single-sign-on point of entry. Administrators have controlled access to a variety of third-party systems, including content providers, database systems, infrastructure management, curriculum, bridges to business and financial systems, etc. Additionally, TNL delivers a variety of unique tools, including a first-of-its kind project and task management tool specifically designed to drive compliance by tracking and notifying users of K-12 programs, grants, and other project implementations.

To make this integration more effective, the system uses a simple yet powerful profiling logic that directs the right data, tools, systems, and resources to the right people. For example, a vice principal will have a different set of access rights and privileges within the system than a first-year teacher, and a science teacher will want to access and utilize the resources on the system differently than an English teacher, helping each to be successful in and out of the classroom. The combination of these features allows USOE to deliver the appropriate tools, resources, and systems into the right hands, thus saving time and effort while improving the results and effectiveness of their programs.

Individual assessments to drive improvement

How TNL improves results is best exemplified in the way data are now collected and used to improve assessment, instruction, and resource utilization. iAssessment’s True Achieve, the Professional Development Management component of TNL, lets state and district administrators provide any number of non-proprietary, confidential teacher/administrator assessments in a variety of subject areas.

Assessments are taken beyond their ordinary boundaries by matching specific training programs and resources to individual teachers based on assessment and profiling data. As such, the appropriate tools, resources, and training opportunities are immediately “hand-delivered” to teachers using this automated data-driven decision process. The results are immediate. Each teacher receives individualized professional development and learning plans tailored to his or her needs and circumstances. This kind of individual attention simply was not possible in the past, owing to limitations with technology and ever-shrinking budgets.

Effective partnerships between district and state

TNL allows the state and individual districts to integrate currently-used programs and systems into On Track, which saves time and money because individuals don’t need to be retrained on new programs they don’t want or need.

With True Point, the System Unification component of the TNL Solution Suites, district administrators can customize the portal web site, providing a unique look and feel for each school district, each school, and each teacher. Furthermore, administrators can manage what users may access. For instance, kindergarten teachers see information relevant to their grade, 5th-grade math teachers see information relevant to their subject matter, administrators see the reports they need, and parents can view information about their child.

Utah’s Granite School District has used On Track as a springboard to create a customized and more detailed program to meet its own unique needs. This customized portal is called the Professional Learning Alignment Navigator (PLAN). iAssessment’s architecture allows Granite to maintain local control while giving the state the capacity to distribute important, time-sensitive services and support. Granite has the ability to use everything available with On Track and–at the same time–offer its own assessments, track its own grants, streamline its own processes, and integrate its district system with the content vendors and database systems its administrators want to include.

Like many states, Utah has experienced a tightening of the budgetary belt. The initial start-up and customization of On Track cost less than the annual salary of just one computer administrator. But the value to those who benefit from the system cannot be underestimated. iAssessment has provided a robust and solid portal to support USOE and facilitate a successful experience for each teacher, each administrator, and each student today and into the future.


Educators set sights on Sunshine State

Welcome to the eSchool News Conference Information Center‘s special coverage of the Florida Educational Technology Conference, which takes place in Orlando from Jan. 26-28, 2005.

Whether you’re already planning to be at the Orange County Convention Center’s North-South Complex, or are still not certain you’re going, our Conference Information Center will have the news you can use in the weeks ahead. Here you’ll find schedules, information about featured speakers, and lists of vendors offering solutions in Orlando.

This all sets the stage for our live, real-time coverage during the conference. We’ll have daily news, information, and pictures–live from the show. Plus, we’ll have reports from our volunteer Conference Correspondents.

During FETC 2005, more than 500 companies will fill over 275,000-square-feet of exhibit space at the Orange County Convention Center’s North South Complex. (Photo courtesy of FETC)

These educators have kindly offered to review the more than 200 concurrent sessions taking place at FETC. Want to know what happens in a particularly intriguing session? Not only can you find out here, but you’ll get the scoop from someone whose full-time job is very similar to your own.

FETC is among the largest annual educational technology conferences, and it’s the largest put on by a state organization. From Jan. 26-28, thousands of educators will be in Orlando for the first major ed-tech show of the 2005 calendar year. Not since last summer’s National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in New Orleans have many tech-savvy educators been in the same place at the same time.

Presented by the Florida Educational Technology Corporation, FETC 2005 traces its roots back 24 years. The first FETC event in 1981 was a small gathering of Florida teachers and administrators interested in how emerging technologies could be used in the classroom to improve instruction.

During FETC’s early years, words like DOS, PC, Microsoft and Apple were still unknown to most Americans, and both the Macintosh and Windows operating systems were barely imaginable. As has always been the case with technology, however, the education field led the rest of society in recognizing its potential and wanted to harness its value as a learning tool.

The event has come a long way. Today, FETC is attended by more than 12,00 educators each year. FETC 2005 features more than 200 hour-long concurrent sessions offered free to all attendees and 70 professional development workshops requiring registration and additional fees. More than 500 companies will be on hand to present solutions for educators.

In addition to the exhibit-hall activities, the conference features an opening-night speech by best-selling novelist Carl Hiaasen, who is known throughout Florida for his work as a news columnist and political satirist for The Miami Herald. Hiaasen is also the author of the award-winning children’s book HOOT.

So whether you’re in Orlando for the conference, or not, you’ll want to visit the eSN Conference Information Center each day from Jan. 26-28, because we’ll have a complete roundup of the major events and offer a sense of what products are hot this year.

FETC 2005 promises to offer a wealth of information for educators. The eSN Conference Information Center will report on as many of its more than 200 concurrent session as possible, through our team of volunteer Conference Correspondents.


FETC 2005

FETC 2004: Big turnout, practical solutions