Premio pleads guilty for defrauding eRate

Funds for Learning reports that the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Premio Inc, has agreed to pay $1.7 million in criminal fines and restitution relating to collusion and fraud in the FCC’s eRate program. Premio is specifically charged with: “committing mail fraud by willfully entering into a scheme to defraud the E-Rate program by substituting ineligible equipment for approved equipment, submitting false and fraudulent documents to hide the fact that it installed ineligible equipment, and submitting false invoices to the E-Rate program to receive payment for the ineligible equipment that it installed at an E-Rate project at a school district in Highland Park, Michigan”…

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Bill would keep servers out of China

USA Today reports that Republican Senator Chris Smith from New Jersey is drafting a bill that would require internet companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft to keep vital servers out of China and other nations that are repressive to human rights. The aim is to keep servers that house personal data away from those governments’ reach…

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Coaches woo students with text messages

Text messaging has become a routine part of the average teen’s experience. Now, it’s entering the big-time world of college recruiting, too.

When John Peterson wants to make sure a prized recruit is thinking about playing football for Ohio State University, he reaches for his phone–and types.

Buoyed by an NCAA rule change, more college coaches are text messaging recruits. Coaches still send letters and make phone calls, but some say the short messages transmitted from a cell phone or handheld device are more effective than traditional recruiting tools in communicating with top prospects.

“It’s an instant letter or note to a recruit,” said Peterson, the recruiting coordinator for the Buckeyes. “As prevalent as cell phones and text messages are, it’s a tool that is definitely being used across the country.”

An NCAA subcommittee on recruiting picked up on the trend, voting in 2004 to change the designation of text messages to general correspondence. The rules change, which went into effect Aug. 1, 2004, treats text messages like letters instead of phone calls, which are limited based on the student’s age, sport, and time of year.

During approved recruiting periods, the NCAA allows coaches as much general correspondence as they want.

“The rationale was … to take advantage of technology and provide greater flexibility for institutions to contact prospective student athletes,” said Crissy Schluep, an NCAA spokeswoman. “On the flip side of things, for the prospects’ well-being, they can choose to respond or not.”

Some groups within the NCAA membership, such as the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, are discussing the effect of the text-messaging designation, but no formal rule changes have been proposed, Schluep said.

Phone calls remain more regulated, she said, because prospects have little choice about responding.

With text messaging, a wireless variation of eMail in which a person’s cell-phone number serves as the address for sending and receiving short messages, recipients can choose to respond at a more convenient time or ignore the message.

Text messaging, though more widespread abroad, is growing in the United States.

More than 32 billion text messages were sent in the United States during the first half of 2005, up from 24.7 billion during the last half of 2004, said Joe Farren, a spokesman for CTIA-The Wireless Association, a cell phone trade group.

In June alone, 7.3 billion messages were sent, an increase from 2.9 billion in June 2004. Text messaging has been used to reach Hurricane Katrina survivors when phones went down, organize protests, and–of course–flirt.

It’s taken some adjustment for coaches, who haven’t grown up with the technology as have the teenagers they’re recruiting. Some have adapted quickly, while others are still learning.

“I’m an older guy and obviously a little technologically challenged like most of us at this age,” said 53-year-old Chuck Heater, the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Florida. “But … it’s not so far out there that you can’t figure it out. Since we’ve got it, it’s become a great means of communication.”

Coaches keep it short and stick to basics, congratulating athletes on great performances or sending them words of encouragement before a big game.

“During the season, coaches at Ohio State were always texting me right before the game, telling me good luck,” said running back Chris Wells, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior from Garfield High School in Akron who reportedly has verbally committed to the Buckeyes. “Then, after their game, they would text me about how their game went.”

Officials with the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the American Football Coaches Association say they don’t have any hard data on the use of the recruiting tool but believe it’s being used widely, based on conversations with members.

The NABC might discuss the practice at its annual convention at this year’s Final Four in Indianapolis April 1-3, said deputy executive director Reggie Minton, who warns there could be excessive use of the technology.

“We need to get a full airing and a full feel as to how our membership feels about it,” he said.

Wells said he’d much rather get a text message than another letter. The prep standout said he has received so many letters that he started throwing them away. And while recruits like the technology because it’s less obtrusive, coaches say it’s also more convenient for them.

“It’s an easier way to get through to them, honestly, because a lot of times kids don’t want to get caught up in the phone calls,” said interim Cincinnati basketball coach Andy Kennedy, who was the Bearcats’ recruiting coordinator for four years.

“They’re getting inundated, and after 5 [or] 10 minutes, you get into this uneasy, ‘What are we going to talk about now?'”

Coaches also use text messages to follow up on phone calls, said North Carolina linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen.

“You ask about his girlfriend or his mom and dad or his favorite class,” Thigpen said. “You just talk about everyday things just to let him know you’re thinking about him every single day.”

Wells said he still gets text messages from schools even though he has verbally committed to Ohio State. It can make for some good-natured ribbing when he is out with friends.

“They think it’s funny. They think it’s cool that I’ve got coaches just after me like that,” he said.

Links:

National Association of Basketball Coaches
http://www.nabc.com

American Football Coaches Association
http://www.afca.com

CTIA-The Wireless Association
http://www.ctia.org

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Online temptations tough to ignore

FortWayne.com reports that for many students homework and the internet go hand-in-hand. However, they are increasingly finding themselves distracted by the temptations posed by the internet. Some experts believe that multi-tasking using the internet while studying is a bad idea, as the information may not make it to long-term memory if people are constantly focusing on more on thing…

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PCs for the poor: Which will win?

News.com reports that designing computing machines that are durable, resilient and affordable is tougher than one might expect. More than one computing machine designed for the poor has flopped in recent years, notably the Indian Simputer and the Brazilian Linux PC for the poor. However, there are currently several initiatives that should be under serious consideration from everyone. Some of these include: the Negroponte $100 laptop, the SUV computer, and the Microsoft cellphone…

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$50,000 and newspaper recognition for outstanding K-12 educators

The 2006 All-USA Teacher Team recognizes outstanding K-12 teachers. Twenty individuals and instructional teams will be featured in USA Today as representatives of all outstanding teachers. Winners will have their photographs published and their accomplishments noted in the newspaper, and they will receive trophies and share $2,500 cash awards with their schools. (Each winning teacher receives $500. An individual winner receives $500, with $2,000 going to his or her school; each member on a team of four receives $500, with $500 going to the school.) Teachers can be nominated by anyone willing to put in writing why they are outstanding; nominees must complete the form explaining how they achieve their success.

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Harvard study blasts NCLB policy

Reuters reports that President Bush’s No Child Left Behind education policy has, in some instances, benefited white, middle-class children over minorities in poorer regions. Political compromises between some states and the federal government have enabled some predominantly white school districts avoid penalties that regions with larger ethnic minorities would face. Instead of uniform standards–which the policy was supposed to achieve–the act has allowed states to negotiate to reduce the number of schools classified as failing…

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Student fights taped, published online

NBC10.com reports that another example of misapplied technology has gotten students into trouble. Four children in South Jersey, aged 11-13, have been charged with disorderly conduct after videotaping a fistfight and posting it on MySpace.com. Police believe that the children involved were willing participants…

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$5,000 per award for innovative math and science projects

The Toshiba America Foundation is a nonprofit grant-making organization dedicated to supporting science and math education in the U.S. The foundation contributes to the quality of science and mathematics education by investing in projects designed by classroom teachers to improve instruction for students in grades 7-12. The foundation awards grants of $5,000 on a rolling basis. For grants of more than $5,000, applications are due Feb. 1 and Aug. 1 of each year.

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Gates believes end of passwords is near

News.com reports that Bill Gates believes he finally has the appropriate weapons to supplant the password as the primary means of verifying who is on computers and the internet. The new operating system Windows Vista (due later this year) introduces InfoCards. Gates explains that InfoCards are a technology that gives users a single place to manage various authentication and payment information, in the same way a wallet holds multiple credit cards…

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