Chip manufacturers reach out to Northern California teens

The Contra Costa Times of Walnut Creek, Calif., reports on 30 local high school students’ participation in a spring-break program called “High Tech U.” The three-day crash course introduces these students to careers in the chip-making sector. It features a trip to the Intel campus and San Jose State’s microelectronics lab.


Middle school shows community all that it gained from grant

The Journal Review of Crawfordsville, Ind., reports on a local middle school’s “Technology Extravaganza” — a celebration of a five-year, $9 million grant from the Technology Innovation Challenge Grant project. The middle school held its own version of an ed-tech conference, as it showed the community all that technology is doing for education, and all that this grant has done for the school.


SchoolMatters: Data that matter to schools

A new web site,, is offering a free, web-based data service that provides comparative information and analysis on public schools, districts, and state education systems.

The site–founded through a $45 million contribution from the Broad Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation–was created by a group known as the National Education Data Partnership, which includes the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Service, Achieve Inc., and CELT Corp.

SchoolMatters builds on, and replaces, an earlier initiative in which the Broad Foundation and S&P also were involved, called (see “ED launches $50M new data-management tool“). According to S&P, that web site focused only on NCLB data and was funded with a $50 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. NCLB-centric information available on SchoolResults is now among the data provided by SchoolMatters, and visitors to SchoolResults are now redirected to the SchoolMatters web site.

SchoolMatters provides users with the kind of in-depth financial, demographic, and performance data that corporations have had about their industries for many years.

At a press conference announcing the release of SchoolMatters, William Cox, managing director of Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services, said his organization believes that SchoolMatters “has the potential to help guide the education debate in this country by providing a common and transparent platform for education data.”

SchoolMatters points out on its web site that, even though per-pupil spending has increased by 50 percent over the past two decades, nearly one-third of public high school students fail to graduate, and two-thirds of all students leave high school unprepared for a four-year college, according to the Manhattan Institute.

Dan Katzir, managing director of the Broad Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving urban public schools through better government, management, and labor relations, said an increasing number of American students are “dropping out [of] or graduating from high school unprepared for work, college, and constructive citizenship.”

He said the web site provides “easy access to a much deeper level of information than ever publicly available before” as a way of beginning to address this concern.

The information on the site is meant to educate the public about how schools and districts are performing and help them understand the relationships between performance and investment. SchoolMatters says the ease of access to this information can help educators and policy makers better craft strong educational policies. By providing this information to the general public, SchoolMatters hopes to help parents make more informed decisions that range from “policies they advocate to the schools their children attend.”

Tom Houlihan, executive director of CCSSO, said his organization is a committed supporter of SchoolMatters “as [a] tool for highlighting the importance of making data-driven decisions.”

Houlihan said SchoolMatters provides “unprecedented access to data … rather than anecdotal [evidence].” He said easy access to such information will help to drive change on the state and local levels and better prepare American students for their post-graduate careers.

“The comparative data and analysis provided by this service is truly the wave of the future,” Houlihan said. “We hope this site will serve as complement to data-driven decision-making processes already under way.”

Standard & Poor’s Cox stressed that the site is meant “not only to provide users with different ways to look at education data, but to encourage them to pursue the stories behind the numbers.”

Leads to these stories might be found more easily than ever with the SchoolMatters service. For instance, SchoolMatters encourages users to find schools or districts with similar demographics and finances but better academic scores. Users then are encouraged to follow up on this initial information and find out what materials and techniques those higher-performing institutions are using to drive achievement.

Those involved in SchoolMatters were careful to point out that the site, though already formidable in its scope, is a work in progress. Cox said that “over half the states have very complete data,” but test scores and other data have not been provided by all the states. “The timeframe for the other 40 percent? The site will be continuously updated. We keep track of every piece of data that can be analyzed,” he said.

Houlihan said the data provided by the site can “only be improved as more education stakeholders use the site and provide suggestions on how it can be better used in the future.”

Cox noted that certain kinds of data must be reported over time. Academic improvement for a state or district is not something that can be measured with just one “snapshot” of student performance. Data must be collected over a period of time to accurately track and measure improvement.

Cox also mentioned that SchoolMatters has invited schools to provide data on the use of technology to improve assessment scores. “So far, no schools have offered technology use,” he said. “Data tends to be a bit arbitrary–about [the number of] computers per child. [The information] still doesn’t get to the use of technology to impact schools.”

He added: “We have submitted a template to all states to provide data to discuss technology issues in a way that may provide better information.”



Student tech support program a huge hit at Oregon high school

The Appeal Tribune of Silverton, Ore., reports on the local high school’s use of student technology assistants. Silverton has joined the growing trend of schools using students for tech support while giving them a chance to earn class credit.”They excel because it’s not a normal classroom,” says the school’s technology coordinator.


High Court hears file-sharing case

In a case with broad implications for the future of copyright law and the use of intellectual property in America’s schools and colleges, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments March 29 in a lawsuit pitting the music and movie industries against makers of software for swapping digital files online.

Entertainment companies want the court to let them sue the manufacturers of file-sharing software that allows computer users to download music and movies from each other’s computers. The companies say such downloads violate copyright protections and amount to stealing.

Lower courts have sided with the software makers, Grokster Ltd. and StreamCast Networks, which say their technology should be looked at no differently than a videocassette recorder.

The issue cuts two ways for schools, which increasingly find their computer networks are being used for illegal file sharing. A ruling in favor of movie studios could curb the use of school networks to download and distribute movies and music in violation of copyright law.

On the other hand, how the High Court rules could redefine how consumers can watch television shows and films and listen to songs that increasingly are delivered in digital formats. Supporters of file-sharing technology say a ruling against the software companies could effectively give the entertainment industry a legal veto over up-and-coming gadgets; they fear the threat of expensive lawsuits could hamper development of new devices.

That seems to be the early thinking of the justices, who openly worried that allowing lawsuits to protect internet movie and music rights could stunt development of the next iPod or other cool high-tech gadget.

During a lively, hour-long argument, the court puzzled over the repercussions of granting the entertainment industry authority to sue technology manufacturers over consumers who use their products to steal music and movies online.

Justices wondered aloud whether lawsuits against manufacturers might have discouraged past inventions like copy machines and VCRs, as well as newer innovations like iPod music players. All can be used to make illegal copies of documents, films, and songs.

Justice Antonin Scalia said a ruling against Grokster, a developer of leading file-sharing software, could mean that if “I’m a new inventor, I’m going to get sued right away.”

Scalia, 69, referred to the company as “Grakster, whatever this outfit is called,” eliciting chuckles from the packed courtroom.

The entertainment industry’s lawyer, Donald Verrilli Jr., said his clients have no interest in suing inventors who take steps to block customers from stealing. But Grokster and other file-sharing services actively encourage consumers to steal, Verrilli said.

Verrilli called Grokster’s software “a gigantic engine of infringement” that thieves use to steal 2.6 billion songs, movies, and other digital files each month.

“The scale of the whole thing is mind-boggling,” Verrilli said.

The case has star power on both sides.

Don Henley, Sheryl Crow, the Dixie Chicks, and other musicians are backing the major recording labels, saying their livelihoods are threatened if millions of people can obtain their songs for nothing.

About 20 independent recording artists, including musician and producer Brian Eno, rockers Heart, and rapper-activist Chuck D, support the file-sharing technology. They say it allows greater distribution of their music and limits the power of huge record companies.

The entertainment industry is eager to use the internet to sell more music and movies, and it points to the stunning popularity of Apple Computer’s iPod, which can be used to play songs purchased online.

But Justice David H. Souter noted that even iPod users can play music downloaded illegally.

“I know perfectly well if I can get music on my iPod without paying, that’s what I’m going to do,” said Souter, 65.

Souter questioned why the industry wouldn’t also sue Apple on the same grounds as Grokster. Verrilli said that, unlike Grokster, Apple took reasonable steps to discourage piracy.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, 68, pressed Grokster’s lawyer, Richard Taranto, on whether profits from trafficking in stolen property can rightfully be used to help finance a young technology business. “That seems wrong to me,” Kennedy said.

The court was expected to rule before July. Regardless of the outcome, it still won’t be legal to download copyrighted materials over the internet without permission. And any ruling won’t affect thousands of copyright lawsuits filed against internet users–including many students–caught sharing music and movies online.

Besides the lawsuits against music fans, the Associated Press reported, the entertainment industry has deliberately polluted file-sharing networks with poor-quality copies of songs and falsely named files, among other tactics, to frustrate internet thieves.

Two lower courts previously sided with Grokster. A trial judge and a U.S. appeals court in California each based their decisions on the 1984 Supreme Court ruling that Sony Corp. could not be sued over consumers who used its VCRs to make illegal copies of movies.

The lower courts ruled that, like VCRs, the file-sharing software can be used for “substantial” legal purposes, such as giving away free songs, free software, or government documents. The lower courts reasoned that the legitimate uses for such software gave companies like Grokster protection from copyright lawsuits based on acts by their customers.

Justice John Paul Stevens, 84, who was among the justices hearing arguments March 29, wrote the 5-4 Sony decision. Only two other justices from 1984 remain on the court: Sandra Day O’Connor, 75, who sided with Stevens, and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, 80, who dissented.

The case is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios v. Grokster, 04-480.


U.S. Supreme Court


Videoconferencing gear opens doors for high school debaters

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports on how students at a local high school are making the most of the school’s video teleconferencing system to hone their debating skills. They are part of a new debating league in which students can engage in discussions not only with other local schools, but with schools worldwide.


Patrick urges Pa. ed-tech leaders to push for one-to-one model

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports on a visit to Western Pennsylvania by ED’s Susan Patrick, who spoke to school technology directors at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. Patrick urged Allegheny County, which has 5.1 students for every school computer, to follow the example of places like Henrico County, Va., and aggressively pursue a one-to-one computing model.


HP looks to tone down management style with new CEO

The New York Times reports that Hewlett-Packard has chosen Mark V. Hurd as its new CEO, replacing Carly Fiorina. Hurd had been president and CEO of NCR, leading that company to a major turnaround, which HP board members hope he can repeat in Palo Alto. (Note: This siste requires registration.)


Detroit schools still not using software purchased in 2000

The Detroit Free Press reports that Detroit Public Schools is underutilizing administrative software purchased five years ago. This has held up an effort to give teachers better access to test scores and to reclaim funding available through the Medicaid program


Virtual manipulatives aim to engage students in math education

Created by a team of researchers and educators at Utah State University with support from the National Science Foundation, this new online library of interactive manipulatives is intended to help educators accomplish the often challenging task of engaging students in daily math lessons. Whether you’re teaching basic mathematical concepts, from simple algebra or geometry to units of measurement, or more advanced lessons on topics such as data and probability, chances are you’ve found yourself in a situation where, no matter what you do, your students seem either unable, or unwilling, to grasp the concept. Because learning and understanding mathematics at every level requires student engagement, the researchers behind this three-year project have set out to create a vast library of manipulatives, or learning tutorials, intended to help students visualize and apply these often difficult mathematical concepts. Through the use of Java-based mathematical tools and editors, the site challenges teachers to create and integrate a variety of new approaches to interactive mathematics instruction.