Experts to students: Watch what you post

Much has been made of the danger of posting too much personal information on web sites such as, where millions of people–including online child predators–can, in seconds, find out where site users go to school, learn their interests, download their pictures, and instantly send them messages.

But there is another, less widely reported danger as well: that the information students post online could come back to haunt them later in life.

In recent weeks, a Dover, Del., newspaper reporter was fired from his job after someone alerted his editor to racially offensive comments he had posted to his personal blog on–and seven Lincoln, Neb., high school students were suspended for two weeks when a school staff member found a posting that mentioned the students drinking alcohol.

“This is a new arena for us,” said Wendy Henrichs, athletic director for Lincoln East High School, where the seven suspended students were all varsity and junior varsity basketball players. “In the ’70s or ’80s … people would say those things. Today, they write them.”

She added, “The difference is putting it in print, basically documented proof of what’s been said. I don’t know if kids understand that.”

MySpace, one of several popular social networking sites, is a free service that allows users to create web site profiles of themselves that can be personalized with information, pictures, and movies. MySpace reportedly boasts more than 180,000 new members per day and, according to web site traffic ranking service Alexa, was the seventh most popular destination for English–speaking internet users as of press time.

While today’s students are undeniably savvy in their knowledge and adoption of technology, they aren’t always as savvy in how they choose to deploy it–and often they are only vaguely aware of the digital “footprint” they leave behind when they post personal information.

And this footprint could play an increasingly important role in whether students land their dream job or even get into the college of their choice, experts say.

A recent Harris Interactive poll showed that 23 percent of people search the names of business associates or colleagues on the internet before meeting them–which probably means many employers are doing the same with job applicants, said Andrea Kay, a career consultant and author of “Interview Strategies That Will Get You the Job You Want.”

“It’s a wake–up call: You better be careful what you say and do, because it is your reputation. You’re developing it early on,” Kay said.

Many employers hire companies to conduct background checks, but “Googling” job applicants serves as an additional tool. It makes sense, especially when young applicants have few references or the job involves responsibility for people’s health or finances, said Charles Fleischer, an employment lawyer and author of “The Complete Hiring and Firing Handbook.”

Given the relative ease of investigating someone online and the rate of technology’s penetration into the college admissions process, it’s conceivable that college admissions officers, too, could soon be Googling prospective students.

College admissions officers who spoke with eSchool News said it wasn’t part of their typical practice yet–but if the trend of employers Googling applicants spreads to education, that could change.

Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director for the American Association of College Registrars and College Admissions Officers, said he isn’t aware of “any [higher–education] institution that is Googling people or checking out MySpace for background information.” However, he added that “it is within the rights of the institution, and it is not inconceivable that an institution could fact–check an application in this manner.”

According to David Hawkins, director of public policy for the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, colleges are “aware of the enormous space blogs and aggregated web sites like & have taken in the lives of youths.” But with an increase in the number of college applicants in recent years, he said, “there isn’t always time to dig deeper on student applications.”

Still, Hawkins said, “the potential for a student to trip himself up is certainly greater than it was even 10 years ago.”

Kent Weaver, supervisor of guidance services for Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools, said the rise of social networking sites is such a new phenomenon that most guidance counselors haven’t yet formed a policy for advising students to be discreet about the information they post about themselves online. But Weaver said his staff does advise students against using silly eMail addresses that seem cool at the time, but are unprofessional later on. The easiest way for students to guard against the information they post coming back to haunt them is not to post anything embarrassing. But users of most social networking sites also can control how much of the information they post is available to the general public.

The major “profile” sites, such as MySpace, Facebook, and LiveJournal, all allow for various privacy settings. MySpace uses the most public setting as its default. The others include prompts that make users choose a privacy setting when they post information. Users can opt to make the various parts of their profile available only to people they list as “friends.” Even so, nothing guarantees that privacy policies in effect today will be honored in days and years to come.

Experts say it’s important for students to understand that, when they use MySpace and other sites like it, they are building up a virtual archive of their online behavior. How that archive might be used in the future is anybody’s guess.


American Association of College Registrars and College Admissions Officers

National Association for College Admissions Counseling


Live from TCEA: Take a walk on the “wild side”

The 26th annual Texas Computer Education Association began the first full day of its annual conference activities with roughly 13,000 educators, students, and exhibitors– including more than 8,000 paid participants–in attendance at the Austin Convention Center. Taking “Technology Gone Wild,” as its theme in 2006, TCEA offered attendees guidance through the “jungle” of education technology, with special speakers, hundreds of free instructional sessions, and 700 education technology exhibitors.

Principals, superintendents, teachers, technology specialists, and curriculum specialists from across Texas, across the nation, and around the world attended the opening ceremonies on Wednesday morning. Motivational speaker Coach Ken Carter was the featured keynote. Carter’s experiences as the head coach of the Richmond High School basketball team in Richmond, California, became the subject of the movie, Coach Carter. Carter made news when he locked out his undefeated basketball team in order to push them to improve their grades. The team members later went on to be successful in basketball and academics.

In his speech, Carter emphasized accountability, integrity, learning leadership through being a good follower, and teamwork, and his positive attitude generally matched the mood of the morning’s opening proceedings.

But some portions of Carter’s speech to the packed conference hall may have had more resonance than many of the educators in attendance would have liked. With the Enhancing Education Through Technology ed-tech grant program offered to the chopping block in President Bush’s 2007 budget proposal as part of an overall $3.2-billion in proposed education budget cuts, Carter’s words on keeping a positive attitude while growing up poor in the south were perhaps unwelcome in their relevance, if positive in their message (see: Bush: Cut $3.2B from education) .

“You can be broke,” Carter urged the crowd. “There’s nothing wrong with that. But, never be poor.” “Broke is an economic state–just ask any college student, they’ll tell you. But poor is a disabling state of mind,” he said.

Dr. David Thornburg, noted public speaker, Senior Fellow of the Congressional Institute for the Future, and author of Campfires in Cyberspace, a guide to teaching with the web, believes a poverty of spirit may exist in certain educational establishments in the U.S. in their reluctance to adopt one-to-one computing models in the United States.

Thornburg discussed his upcoming sessions with eSN. Thornburg noted that the price points on laptop computers have continued to decline in recent years, and the availability of free, or very inexpensive open source alternatives to proprietary operating systems and applications have put the one-to-one computing classroom environment within reach. Yet, the four-to-one student-to-computer ratio has remained static for the last three years. Thornburg said that he believes many educators–and even parents–feel threatened by the changes that could be brought about by student access to anytime-anywhere learning that a one-to-one program could provide.

“There is a perhaps well-placed fear among educators that if technology becomes ubiquitous, it will totally transform the practice of education,” Thornburg said.

Thornburg said, quite simply, that this possibility threatens the traditional power structure in the classroom. That threat to the traditional economy of learning, where the teacher is the keeper of knowledge, and the student the one upon whom it is bestowed, leaves educators in an uncertain space.

“They don’t want the practice of education transformed, because they’re very comfortable with it,” Thornburg said.

He also noted that many of the students who would do well in the traditional environment of school might do poorly in the more cooperative learning environment that is less dependent upon rote memorization and other learning strategies of the textbook-driven world. Difficulty among those students brings protest from parents.

At the same time, those who would do poorly in traditional settings often thrive in the collaborative, inquiry-driven, project-based learning environment enabled by anytime access to technology.

“But the possibilities offered to all students with this kind of access–we just can’t talk about that enough,” he said.

Thornburg argued that one-to-one proponents must convince resistant parents that the 21st century classroom must function by a different learning model by pointing out all the computers necessary to every element of the current business world–cell phones, computers, palms, et cetera. Those parents could then help to guide the reluctant teacher to that classroom.

In a session Wednesday, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) brought together educators with makers of different technology assessment tools to try and smooth the transition into that 21st classroom, by meeting the high education technology standards set by the institution.

“Assessing Students’ and Teachers’ Technology Skills: NETS as Benchmarks,” highlighted assessment initiatives that focus on providing quality assessment items, tasks, and resources that support ISTE’s National Education Technology Standards (NETS).

“Ready or not, the world is different,” said Christine Richman, representative for the ISTE 100, a group of ISTE corporate partners recognized by the organization for their commitment to involving educators in the improvement of education through technology.

“One assessment may work for one school, and may not work for another,” Richman said.

In an effort to maintain vendor neutrality while demonstrating the industry-wide acknowledgement of the high-quality of NETS standards, ISTE invited Certiport Inc.,, Microsoft Inc., and PBS Teacherline to demonstrate their assessment products.

The vendors offered products in teacher and student assessment, remediation, and certification for teachers and students, all based on NETS standards.

Texas Instruments Inc., maker of graphing calculators and other education products, in partnership with the television network CBS, held a session discussing its web-based educational outreach promoting the uses of mathematics to students and supporting mathematics teaching. Writers and cast members of the CBS show NUMB3RS discussed how teachers are using web-based mathematics teaching materials designed by TI to engage students through examples culled in NUMB3RS, which centers on a mathematician who solves crimes for the FBI.

“The TI educational program has shaped how writers are approaching the math used in the show,” said Andy Black, a math consultant to the writers for NUMB3RS. “It had gotten pretty esoteric before, but now we’ve begun to work to make it more accessible to kids.”

After the session, representatives from TI gave an eSN editor exclusive news on an upcoming contest that it will carry out with CBS. The “Texas Instruments Use NUMB3RS‘ Every Day for a Hollywood Get-Away” Sweepstakes will open officially on February 15. Teens and their math teachers will be offered the chance to win a trip to Hollywood, and prizes that include up to $2,500 towards college costs, and TI-84 Plus Silver Edition graphing calculators. Students ages 13-19 can enter from February 15 to March 15 by logging onto, completing registration information and providing the name of their current math teacher.

Highlights on the exhibit floor included:

GenevaLogic Inc., provider of classroom management software systems, demonstrated the next generation of its Vision6 version classroom management software for education. GenevaLogic says its software permits teachers to manage, control, and optimize the use of student computers in the classroom. GenevaLogic says Vision6 offers teachers a simple, effective way to manage, control, and optimize the use of technology to support instruction. The product supports both wired and wireless networks, and the company says the new dashboard features allow teachers to customize views all student desktops.

Questia Inc., the online library of more than 60,000 full-text books and over 1-million other publications announced its upcoming lesson plans, which the company says are original, standards-aligned materials written by qualified education professionals, and written in a standardized, searchable format that is fully integrated with Questia’s online library and digital tools.

Akuratus Corporation demonstrated its Akutrust online document retrieval system, which the company says is a secure, web-based service used to retrieve active and archived records stored in a digital format. According to Akutarus, the product is aligned to government standards for student privacy and protects records from unauthorized access and ensures confidentiality through comprehensive security.

SMART Technologies Inc, maker of interactive whiteboards for the classroom, demonstrated version 6.0 of its SynchronEyes classroom management software for the Microsoft Windows operating system. SynchronEyes software has user-friendly capabilities, allowing teachers to monitor each student’s screen individually or many students’ screens simultaneously. SMART version 6.0 offers new features and feature enhancements, including chat, game blocking, internet applications and computer blocking.

Related links:

Texas Computer Education Association, 2006

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

Certiport Inc.

Microsoft Inc.

PBS Teacherline

Texas Instruments Inc.

GenevaLogic Inc.

Questia Inc.

Akuratus Corporation

SMART Technologies Inc.


Bush appointee to NASA resigns

The New York Times reports that George C. Deutsch, a Bush appointee at NASA who limited reporter access to a top climate scientist and also told a web designer to add the word “theory” at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned. The resignation came on the same day that Texas A&M confirmed that Deutsch did not graduate from the university, as he claimed… (Note: This site requires free registration.)


RIM releases BlackBerry workaround reports that Research in Motion (RIM), the company behind the popular BlackBerry device, has announced a workaround in light of recent litigation. If used, the workaround plan would require software upgrades. The announcement comes in advance of a February 24 hearing on a possible injunction. RIM has previously lost a patent infringement dispute to holding company NTP…


Auto shop meets computer lab

The Cheboygan Daily Tribune reports that Dennis Jonski instructs Cheboygan Area High School students how to repair the computer functions of an automible through the use of a high-tech car. Students learn state-of-the-art repair techniques with the school’s latest entry to its stable of repair vehicles–a 2004 Nissan Infinity QX56. The car, which carries a price tag of about $50,000, was donated by Nissan North America…


Cuts send ed-tech programs reeling

President Bush’s budget proposal for 2007 would eliminate the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) block-grant program altogether, but school technology directors already are reeling as they try to absorb the more than $200 million cut from the program this year.

The 45-percent reduction in EETT funding signed into law on Dec. 30 is part of the first decline in federal education spending in nearly a decade (see story: Ed-tech takes huge hit). Losing $221 million in educational technology dollars has left state and local officials wondering how they can continue to support the hardware, software, and professional development they’ve purchased already through EETT, the primary source of federal funding for ed-tech initiatives.

The 2006 cuts are affecting different districts differently, but the consensus appears to be that the loss of EETT funding will most severely affect poor, minority students in urban areas and at-risk, low-income students in rural areas who depend on distance education and other technology-supported services.

“The [Bush] administration argues that schools are all wired now, and there’s no reason left to have the grant program,” said Melinda George, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association. “We would argue that EETT is the program that lets schools follow through on that investment.”

George said most states will not begin to feel the cuts until the beginning of the 2006-07 academic year. She said many states still are waiting for exact numbers from ED that explain the extent of their losses, and they are trying to determine new fund-raising and budgeting strategies to compensate for what likely will be a 45-percent cut for each state.

States will benefit slightly from new regulations that permit more flexibility in how funding can be distributed, George said. In the past, federal guidelines dictated how much money states were allowed to use for competitive grants and how much they had to distribute as formula grants, which are given to local education agencies based on prescribed economic criteria and contingent upon a state-approved technology plan.

State ed-tech directors say they appreciate this additional flexibility. But in states that choose to award a larger portion of these funds competitively, local school officials fear they’ll be frozen out of the benefits of such funding entirely.

According to Mary Saponara, a grant writer for California’s San Ysidro Elementary School District, her district expected to use $1.5 million in EETT funding for 2006 to purchase SuccessMaker English-language instructional software from Pearson Digital Learning, as well as staff development to help teachers use the software. San Ysidro reportedly is the busiest port of entry for Spanish-speaking students in the United States. Many students enter this K-8 district from Central and South American countries without any English-language skills whatsoever.

But Saponara told eSchool News that the state already has decided to distribute EETT funds competitively, and San Ysidro appears to have lost out as a result.

“San Diego Unified [School District] took all the money,” said Saponara. “[State officials] who read [our] grant [proposal] stated that our focus was too narrow.”

Besides working to meet the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requirement that English-language learners be proficient in English by the eighth grade, Saponara said, she and her staff are working to improve the self-esteem of students who are clearly at risk.

“If they don’t have [English-language skills] by third grade, then they suffer in the fourth grade, when expository texts in social studies and other subjects require a certain level of proficiency. The problem becomes progressively worse, and by the time they progress through upper elementary grades, they are more likely to engage in illegal activities,” Saponara said.

She added: “We understand the war in Iraq is costly, we understand the billions of dollars of damage caused by [Hurricane] Katrina. We also understand that … it is expensive to prepare for the terrorist threat to [U.S.] citizens. But how are these children in our district and in districts around the country [supposed] to improve, if they don’t have the resources to do so?”

Impact on rural and urban areas

John O’Connell, instructional technology consultant for the Iowa Department of Education, said his state’s largely rural population of students faces similar limitations with the loss of funding.

Though he hasn’t seen any final numbers from federal officials yet, O’Connell said he expects his state will get about $1.4 million in EETT funding this year, or $2.80 per student. At its peak of $3.3 million in funding, Iowa received $6 per student for technology just a few years ago.

State efforts to raise test scores in math were showing particular promise in pilot programs funded by EETT grants. But inconsistencies in funding, combined with dashed plans to purchase more professional development, software licensing, and hardware for the math program, have harmed morale.

“You begin to suffer from credibility issues, even if it’s not you who’s ultimately responsible for providing the funding,” O’Connell said.

Pennsylvania has both urban and rural districts that will take a major hit from the loss of EETT money. A few years ago, the state was receiving about $22 million in funding. For 2006, this figure–though not yet confirmed by the federal government–appears to have dwindled to somewhere around $9 million.

EETT “is a source for the vast majority of our tech spending. Program upgrades, teacher deployment, technology integration in the classroom–all of those programs are predicated upon these funds,” said Michael Golden, deputy secretary of the state’s Office of Information and Educational Technology.

“Without any additional state money, many of our programs will be unable to continue,” Golden said. “That most dramatically affects large urban districts and poor rural ones. Those are exactly the populations these funds should be focused on.”

As an example, Golden cited the School District of Philadelphia’s use of the SchoolNet instructional management system. The system is designed to manage resources and reports tied to NCLB benchmark exams for student achievement. Until now, a great deal of the city’s EETT funding has been spent on developing the system, training staff for its use, and other related costs. But Golden said he’s heard reports from Philadelphia school officials that the district no longer will be able to support the program without additional funding from the state.

And the problem with rural areas, Golden said, “is that there just isn’t enough money to go around. These districts [often are located in] poor communities, they have limited resources, they rely heavily on distance learning to share best practices and collaborate.”

Stanley Johnson, technology director for the District of Columbia Public Schools, tells a similar story. “I may not be able to reach as many schools … because the dollars are just not there,” Johnson said.

The District of Columbia is a peculiar entity. Because of its status as a city that belongs to no state, Washington, D.C., is funded in the same way the U.S. overseas land holdings of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam are funded.

“I serve two functions–state and local,” said Johnson.

Formula-based EETT funding is distributed both to the District of Columbia Public Schools and to the city’s charter schools, which are defined as individual LEAs throughout the district. The number of charter schools in the district has doubled in recent years, from 30 to 60. EETT funding, in the meantime, has dropped from $3.1 million a few years ago to $2.4 million this year–yet it has to stretch even further than before.

Johnson said that the cuts have forced his departments, which traditionally have functioned independently, to communicate more closely and pool their resources.

“For example, special ed might be asking us what software we have in place to support emergent readers,” Johnson said. “We might ultimately purchase three of the classroom computers, and they’ll provide the other two, and we’ll load the applications onto all of them. We’re cobbling together resources to get more bang for the buck. Historically, that didn’t have to happen.”

But even with the improvements in interdepartmental communication, Johnson said, his ability to plan for the long term has been affected by the uncertainty of funding. This costs the district more money in the long run, he said, because he has had to refinance the interest from previous hardware leases that were taken out when EETT funding seemed more certain.

Funding again in jeopardy

Despite what appears to be a near-uniform call for continued EETT funding from around the country, the Bush administration’s 2007 budget proposal again seeks to eliminate the program, as it did in 2006.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) declined to comment for this story, instead referring an eSchool News reporter to this short passage about EETT included in the president’s 2007 budget proposal:

“Schools today offer a greater level of technology infrastructure than just a few years ago, and there is no longer a significant need for a state formula grant program targeted specifically on (and limited to) the effective integration of technology into schools and classrooms. Districts seeking funds to integrate technology into teaching and learning can use other federal program funds, such as Improving Teacher Quality State Grants and Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies. The Congress eliminated much of the program in 2006; [this] request would complete the process.”


U.S. Department of Education

State Educational Technology Directors Association

San Ysidro Elementary School District

Iowa Department of Education

Pennsylvania Department of Education

District of Columbia Public Schools


Technology goes wild at the 2006 TCEA

Welcome to the eSchool News Conference Information Center‘s special coverage of the Texas Computer Education Association’s 26th Annual Convention & Exposition, taking place at the Austin Convention Center from Feb. 6-10, 2006.

This year’s theme is “Technology Gone Wild.” Speakers at this year’s conference include Wednesday’s keynote speaker Ken Carter, head coach of Richmond High School in Richmond, California, whose experiences coaching the school’s basketball team became the subject of the movie, “Coach Carter,” starring Samuel L. Jackson. Other speakers include Dr. Arnie Abrams, professor of education technology at Southern Oregon University and author of the Best-selling book “Learn Photoshop Elements in a Day”; Dr. Bernie Dodge, originator of the wildly successful WebQuest, the web-based, inquiry-oriented research activity for students; Kathy Schrock, author of over 100 articles on technology and education and five books dealing with the Internet and educational technology, including Kathy Schrock’s Every Day of the School Year; and David Thornburg, noted public speaker, Senior Fellow of the Congressional Institute for the Future, and author of The New Basics: Education and the Future of Work in the Telematic Age, an in-depth discussion on teaching the skills necessary for success the 21st century workplace and, most recently, Campfires in Cyberspace, a guide to teaching with the web.

This year’s TCEA conference also features over 300 free instructional sessions, including talks on Microsoft MovieMaker software, podcasting, integrating science and technology, digital tools in the classroom, blogging, teaching English-language learners, distance learning, and much more.

In addition to TCEA’s free sessions and keynote speeches, there will be more than 700 exhibits of products and services for instructional and administrative software, Internet, staff development, desktop/network security, and more. Exhibitors for 2006 include Adobe Systems Inc., Atomic Learning, BlackBoard Inc., CDW-G, Harcourt Assessment, Hewlett-Packard, Ignite! Learning, Library Video Company, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), LEGO Education, Novell, Scholastic Inc., SMART Technologies, and Texas Instruments.

And don’t forget to check out the eSchool News Conference Correspondents. These minute-by-minute conference updates are written by volunteer correspondents and posted in a blog format. They include breaking news, product spotlights, and seminar reports. Our volunteer correspondents want to help other educators integrate technology into their curricula, and will be offering their insight for the duration of TCEA 2006.

The Texas Computer Education Association dates back to 1980, and has played a major role in many of the education-related success stories that have come from Texas over the past quarter-century. The organization’s primary focus is: “integrating technology into the K-12 environment and providing members with state-of-the-art information through conferences, workshops, newsletters, the internet, and collaborations with higher education and business.”

TCEA 2006–Information for Attendees

TCEA 2006–Information for Exhibitors


UM president backs Google Book Search

Education blogger John Battelle offers a look at comments from a letter by University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman defending Google’s Book Search project, which critics contend violates the copyrights of publishers and authors who should receive royalties whenever their works are viewed in full on the internet. In her letter, Coleman defends the project, saying it has immense educational value for schools and students in particular. “We believe copyright law allows us the fair use of millions of books that are being digitized,” wrote Coleman. We are allowing Google to scan all of our books–those in the public domain and those still in copyright–and they provide our library with a digital copy. We insisted on this for one very important reason: Our library must be able to do what great research libraries do–make it possible to discover knowledge.”


MU president backs Google Book Search

Education blogger John Battelle offers a look at comments from a letter by University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman defending Google’s Book Search project, which critics contend violates the copyrights of publishers and authors who should receive royalties whenever their works are viewed in full on the internet. In her letter, Coleman defends the project, saying it has immense educational value for schools and students in particular. “We believe copyright law allows us the fair use of millions of books that are being digitized,” wrote Coleman. “We are allowing Google to scan all of our books–those in the public domain and those still in copyright–and they provide our library with a digital copy. We insisted on this for one very important reason: Our library must be able to do what great research libraries do–make it possible to discover knowledge.”


Dell offers tech to Gulf Coast schools

Dell Inc. has announced a new program intended to provide access to technology for Gulf Coast schools damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Students from 15 hurricane-ravaged school districts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas soon will have access to educational content thanks to a donation of mobile computer labs from Dell, the State Educational Technology Directors Association, and Cable in the Classroom. “Now these schools can bring the mobile computer carts from classroom to classroom, giving more students access to technology and information,” said Karen Bruett, vice president of Dell’s K-12 business. “This donation is an example of how a global company like Dell can help enable local benefits to customers and communities. We encourage other companies and organizations to help us revitalize these schools by donating any products or services they can.”