MIT web page upsets Chinese students

The Associated Press reports that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology removed a history course web presentation amid complaints from Chinese students. The web page depicted a 19th-century wood-print image of Japanese soldiers beheading Chinese captives, and contained disparaging language. The complaints led to an apology from one of the professors of a course named “Visualizing Cultures,” which employs images of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. The course was created by Pulitzer Prize-winning history professor John Dower and linguistics professor Shigeru Miyagawa. Miyagawa has offered an apology on his web page…

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Schools consider network sharing

TMCnet reports that a meeting organized by the Bucks County Intermediate Unit in Doylestown, PA, discussed improving the scope and speed of internet access in the county’s 13 school districts and three vocational technology schools. The BCIU is assembling a plan for a “Wide Area Network,” which they hope will be financed through state funds. The proposed high-speed system would connect the county’s schools to the Internet, Internet2, and each other, as well as help educators implement new programs. By joining together, costs would be reduced and provide more “bang for the buck”…

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Calif. approves broadband over power line test

News.com reports that the California Public Utilities Commission has approved the testing of broadband over power line technology (BPL), opening up a third option for high-speed internet service. The BPL technology uses existing power lines to carry broadband signals into the home. Advocates hope that this technology will allow electric companies to become a viable alternative to cable and telephone providers. The technology has been hampered by technical limitations, notably interference from emergency and amateur radios. Despite this, several utilities across the nation are investigating this technology, while big companies such as Google, IBM, and EarthLink are investing in it…

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Internet2 aims to boost capacity

By sending data using different colors of light, operators of the ultra high-speed Internet2 network are hoping to boost the research and education network’s capacity by as much as 80-fold–better enabling researchers and academics to connect telescopes around the world and perform other bandwidth-intensive tasks.

The new network should be in place by fall 2007, said Douglas Van Houweling, Internet2’s chief executive.

He announced the plans this week as researchers set a new networking speed record–8.8 gigabits per second (Gbps), nearing the Internet2’s current theoretical limit of 10 Gbps, which is thousands of times faster than standard home broadband connections.

“We have applications now that need more than 10 gigabits of capacity,” Van Houweling said by phone April 26 from the nonprofit Internet2 consortium’s twice-annual meeting in Arlington, Va.

The Internet2 network, which parallels the regular internet and allows universities, researchers, and even some K-12 school systems to share large amounts of information in real time, currently uses shared fiber-optic cables run by Qwest Communications International.

In the new network, Internet2 will have the cables all to itself. Operators initially will be able to transmit data using 10 colors, or wavelengths, of light over a single cable, giving the network a capacity of 100 Gbps. Eventually, Internet2 hopes to transmit on 80 wavelengths.

Although the ability to send data using multiple wavelengths isn’t new, Van Houweling said Internet2 will be deploying new circuits that each can interpret all 10 wavelengths.

The new network will still be run by a contractor, which Van Houweling wouldn’t name.

With the 10-fold increase, a high-quality version of the movie The Matrix could be sent in a few seconds rather than half a minute over the current Internet2 and two days over a typical home broadband line.

Van Houweling said the upgrade is driven by new research needs. For example, astronomers are trying to link radio telescopes around the world, pooling data so they function as one. Van Houweling said the added capacity also would allow U.S. scientists to fully use the world’s largest particle physics collider, being built outside Geneva.

The Internet2 speed record announced April 26 was set in February by a team from the University of Tokyo, the University of Amsterdam, and other institutions. Data went from Tokyo to Seattle to Amsterdam to Chicago and back to Tokyo. The speed breaks the previous high of 7.99 Gbps, set in November.

Internet2 has been in merger talks with another ultra high-speed, next-generation network, National LambdaRail, but such discussions have stalled, Van Houweling said.

More than 200 universities in the United States now belong to the Internet2 consortium. By partnering with member universities, K-12 school systems in several states also have access to the ultra high-speed research and educational applications the network affords.

Link:

Internet2
http://www.internet2.edu

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Cash offered to switch site users to Firefox

iTWire reports that a group of Massachusetts Firefox advocates are offering web publishers and bloggers $1 for each Internet Explorer visitor to their sites that they can convince to switch to Firefox. Google has announced that it will pay websites $1 for each referred download of Firefox it receives via the Google toolbar. The advocates have developed a series of scripts that site owners can add to their code which will detect whether users are running Internet Explorer. Depending on the script chosen, users of Internet Explorer will either be taken to a big splash page, or be presented with a banner at the top of the page urging them to switch to Firefox…

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Schools cut parent cellphone “lifeline”

The New York Times reports that city schools have long banned cellphone use within school buildings. However, many parents say that schools without metal detectors have had an unofficial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, where phones are permitted, as long as they don’t ring during class. Cellphones are described as the urban parent’s “umbilical cord,” in that they allow them to connect with their children on the bus, as they emerge from subways, travel across the boroughs, etc. However, the city has begun random security searches at middle and high schools, which have set off a furor. One school search led to the confiscation of 129 cellphones, prompting some principles to send notes home with students, reminding parents that cellphones are not permitted. Parents counter that cellphones are the glue holding families together in NYC, given the hectic schedules, long treks to schools, and ever-increasing extra-curricular activities… (Note: This site requires free registration.)

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Democrats lose net neutrality vote

News.com reports that by a 34-22 vote, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee rejected a net neutrality amendment advocated by companies including Microsoft, Amazon.com, and Google. The plan, backed by Democrats, has raised alarms by politicians, advocacy groups, and corporations about a section of the 34-page bill. The groups believe that the FCC must be given powers to prevent broadband companies from charging content providers for preferential treatment of web content. Some opponents of the bill say it doesn’t go far enough to target possible errant behavior from broadband providers. Meanwhile, others feel that the Internet was created on a different model than the cable and telephone industries, so it should be treated differently as well…

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Technology creates lectures on demand

A software product originally intended for use by big-name media outlets has recently begun cropping up in college lecture halls across the country, enabling professors to easily record live classroom lectures and presentations and post them to the internet for students to review.

Called Apreso, the multimedia software package–first adopted by big-name media providers such as CNN and Fox News to convert digital footage of news broadcasts for redistribution on the web, mobile phones, and cable television–reportedly has caught the attention of tech-savvy college professors and other educators looking to capture lessons for students to access in their dorm rooms, at the computer lab, or while on the go across campus.

Virginia-based Anystream Inc. says its Apreso Classroom software product is being used in university classrooms and lecture halls nationwide to realize the benefits of multimedia-enhanced instruction. According to the company, its customers include the University of Maryland, Michigan State University, Harvard University, Sheffield University, the Medical College of Georgia, and Temple University.

Anystream and university officials say having the lecture materials ready for immediate online review is leading to higher retention and greater experimentation in the classroom. The technology’s increasing popularity also has led to speculation about its potential in K-12 classrooms.

The Apreso program can be loaded onto an existing podium PC in a media-enhanced lecture hall, or onto a separate machine dedicated to its use. Once installed, the solution can be configured to work with classroom hardware, including microphones and installed video recorders, to capture a full video of the professor’s lecture automatically. In older classrooms, where video recordings are not an option, Apreso can be configured to record all visual presentations, including PowerPoint slides and other electronic applications.

Presentations are captured in full motion, not just in periodic photo capture. That means if a professor is using a mouse- or stylus-enabled application to write out equations in longhand, for instance, the program will record the entirety of the professor’s gestures along with the lecture, not just a series of captured screenshots.

The application also records the professor’s voice output from a microphone and can capture audience comments as well. The audio track of the recording can be repurposed for podcasts on iPods or other MP3 players, Anystream said.

What’s more, the product is schedule-driven, according to the company, which means that a professor who wants to capture his or her lecture using the software need only inform the appropriate IT administrator. The administrator can set the lecture to be recorded as often or as seldom as the professor wishes. After the lecture is completed, the captured content is encoded, formatted, and placed on the school’s learning management system, where it can be accessed by students online, on demand, via a variety of media players, including Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, and iTunes. The room is then automatically reset to record the next scheduled lecture–without any additional work from the professor.

For schools considering the technology, one of the most limiting factors is likely to be price. Though Anystream has reduced the price of a single license for its base Classroom offering to $5,000–down significantly from the $10,000 to $100,000 it charges major newsrooms for a similar service–one source told eSchool News the necessary hardware to outfit lecture halls and classrooms, including video recorders, sound and digital projection systems, and computer-enabled lecterns, could end up costing a school anywhere between $2,500 and $12,000 per room, depending on the level of functionality desired.

Anystream isn’t the only company offering these services to schools.

Other video-over-IP network solutions are available at comparable prices from companies such as VBrick Systems and Advanced Media Design (AMD). Like Anystream, these companies have developed products for corporate and government videoconferencing markets that have been adapted for education.

Solutions from these companies provide users with varying combinations of the on-demand offerings of Anystream, at price points ranging from $2,000 for AMD’s Digital Media Recorders–which reportedly have the capability to stream directly from the classroom to the web with no administrative intervention–to VBrick’s VBEduCast system, which, at $5,495, reportedly can get video and presentation software-enabled lectures posted onto the web from a media-enhanced classroom “in minutes.”

Despite an increasingly crowded marketplace for classroom video-capture technologies, Anystream executives say their Apreso product holds an advantage over the competition thanks, at least in part, to the product’s “set-it-and-forget-it” scheduling capabilities.

“Two or three years ago, universities began purchasing the product for lecture capture,” explained Mark Jones, Anystream’s vice president for education products. “It had, up to then, been used as a high-end, broadcast media application, an agility product [for bringing broadcasts to the web].”

That’s when Anystream decided it was time “to tweak the product for an education market,” said Jones. “We added the scheduling component–essential for education–[and] designed a version with integrations for [learning management systems such as] WebCT and Blackboard. We also brought the price point down, as it wasn’t friendly to university budgets.”

The Apreso Classroom product has met with positive reviews from students, instructors, and administrators, Jones said, namely for its flexibility of use.

“We really view the higher-ed market as a bunch of smaller markets,” Jones explained. “Law schools use it largely to help students review closing arguments. Med schools, which are very visually demanding, use it to record [dissections and other procedures] & Business travelers in MBA programs are using it to stay on top of their courses, and the lecture capture helps students in complex math, science, and engineering courses be more confident, because they can review their materials as much as they want.”

John DeAngelo, associate dean for information technology at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, said his school piloted Apreso Classroom in two lecture halls beginning in July 2004, and the school has since added 10 more campus-wide, including two more in the Fox School. DeAngelo expects campus use of the product to continue to increase.

Though its use by instructors is voluntary, DeAngelo said the Apreso software has been accepted widely by students, professors, and administrators. He said that, in the Fox School alone, more than 2,000 hours of captures have been stored since 2004, and as many as 40 business-school faculty members are now making use of it, as well as 3,000 students. From an administrative standpoint, he said, the school wanted something that didn’t require an operator to make it work, which also suited the university’s expansion plans.

The school is in the process of constructing a new 12,000 square-foot facility. The building, called Alter Hall, will have all of its classrooms equipped with the technology.

University instructors currently are using the video-capture system to prep for exams, said DeAngelo. MBA courses are using it to prep students for face-to-face meetings. For quantitative courses in math and science, DeAngelo said, the students “who just don’t get it the first time through” are using the Apresos to increase review time.

Temple also now uses the system for recruitment, he said, showing students excerpts from lectures to entice them to university programs. Apresos also are being used to give students recently accepted to the university a taste of its curriculum. In addition, the software is being employed as a means of connecting students and instructors in the university’s international program.

Though Temple has done no controlled studies of how the program has affected student learning, a study carried out by the University of Massachusetts on its Lowell campus has shown that, among calculus students during the 2004-05 school year, 72 percent of those who took Apreso-enhanced courses said it contributed to the content of their course materials. Students taking part in the calculus courses supported by Apreso lectures also had a success rate (a grade of C or better) that was 11 percent higher than that of their peers, and there were 10 percent fewer students with Ds, Fs, or withdrawals in Apreso-enhanced courses, the study found.

Mike Lucas, coordinator of distance education for UMass-Lowell, said Apresos also are being used in two media-enhanced lecture halls at the school. Instructors are employing the solution to support introductory engineering courses, anatomy and physiology courses, and some chemistry courses. Though the technology is currently being offered only to instructors scheduled to use those lecture halls, Lucas said he anticipates that the future will see increased demand for the technology.

“I hope to have scheduling conflicts in the future,” Lucas said. “That would mean the faculty at large [is] embracing the technology.”

The UMass library system has used the Apreso technology to create tutorials for library resources and make these tutorials available on the web, Lucas said. He said professors who frequently travel have been using the technology to make available lectures for when they are away.

While student acceptance of the technology has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Lucas, instructors, by and large, have been less enthusiastic.

Some instructors say they worry about the potential for faculty to create “canned lectures” that will be archived and reused by students in place of an actual, live lecture.

“Typically–and this is my generalization–it’s been the younger faculty [members who aren’t] really concerned,” explained Lucas. “Older faculty [members] are concerned that students won’t be making it to class.”

He added, “Some are concerned that the lecture will be canned for the entire year” and are wondering about job security.

Dale Mann, professor emeritus of Teachers College, Columbia University, and currently managing director of the technology consulting firm Interactive Inc., said using the system in such a way wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for schools.

“It’s a lesson-capture system that automatically creates a library, a stock of materials, that can be edited into a single master class,” Mann said. “If you do a [full recording] for three lectures in a row, you’ve got the base for creating a master class. You could edit [the master version] out of the three iterations of your presentation.”

Mann believes K-12 schools could use such a resource for distance education.

Anystream’s Jones said his company, for now, does not plan to move into the K-12 market, even though there has been some interest from schools. Unlike college professors, he noted, K-12 administrators must worry about meeting federal guidelines such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which prohibits the public distribution of certain student information, such as the identities of students who could be revealed should the wrong person gain access to the system. He said Apresos would have to be carefully used in K-12 schools to avoid violating such laws.

Still, he said, many of the benefits achieved through the technology in higher education are applicable to K-12.

“As in higher education, this technology could be used to repurpose classroom lectures for distance learning,” Jones said. “Smaller high schools in Minnesota could share instructors with a school 100 miles away.”

Links:

Anystream Inc.
http://www.anystream.com

VBrick Systems
http://www.vbrick.com

Advanced Media Design
http://www.amdsys.com

Temple University
http://www.temple.edu

University of Massachusetts
http://www.umass.edu

Interactive Inc.
http://www.iternactiveinc.org

Though Temple has done no controlled studies of how the program has affected student learning, a study carried out by the University of Massachusetts on its Lowell campus has shown that, among calculus students during the 2004-05 school year, 72 percent of those who took Apreso-enhanced courses said it contributed to the content of their course materials. Students taking part in the calculus courses supported by Apreso lectures also had a success rate (a grade of C or better) that was 11 percent higher than that of their peers, and there were 10 percent fewer students with Ds, Fs, or withdrawals in Apreso-enhanced courses, the study found.

Mike Lucas, coordinator of distance education for UMass-Lowell, said Apresos also are being used in two media-enhanced lecture halls at the school. Instructors are employing the solution to support introductory engineering courses, anatomy and physiology courses, and some chemistry courses. Though the technology is currently being offered only to instructors scheduled to use those lecture halls, Lucas said he anticipates that the future will see increased demand for the technology.

“I hope to have scheduling conflicts in the future,” Lucas said. “That would mean the faculty at large [is] embracing the technology.”

The UMass library system has used the Apreso technology to create tutorials for library resources and make these tutorials available on the web, Lucas said. He said professors who frequently travel have been using the technology to make available lectures for when they are away.

While student acceptance of the technology has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Lucas, instructors, by and large, have been less enthusiastic.

Some instructors say they worry about the potential for faculty to create “canned lectures” that will be archived and reused by students in place of an actual, live lecture.

“Typically–and this is my generalization–it’s been the younger faculty [members who aren’t] really concerned,” explained Lucas. “Older faculty [members] are concerned that students won’t be making it to class.”

He added, “Some are concerned that the lecture will be canned for the entire year” and are wondering about job security.

Dale Mann, professor emeritus of Teachers College, Columbia University, and currently managing director of the technology consulting firm Interactive Inc., said using the system in such a way wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for schools.

“It’s a lesson-capture system that automatically creates a library, a stock of materials, that can be edited into a single master class,” Mann said. “If you do a [full recording] for three lectures in a row, you’ve got the base for creating a master class. You could edit [the master version] out of the three iterations of your presentation.”

Mann believes K-12 schools could use such a resource for distance education.

Anystream’s Jones said his company, for now, does not plan to move into the K-12 market, even though there has been some interest from schools. Unlike college professors, he noted, K-12 administrators must worry about meeting federal guidelines such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which prohibits the public distribution of certain student information, such as the identities of students who could be revealed should the wrong person gain access to the system. He said Apresos would have to be carefully used in K-12 schools to avoid violating such laws.

Still, he said, many of the benefits achieved through the technology in higher education are applicable to K-12.

“As in higher education, this technology could be used to repurpose classroom lectures for distance learning,” Jones said. “Smaller high schools in Minnesota could share instructors with a school 100 miles away.”

Links:

Anystream Inc.
http://www.anystream.com

VBrick Systems
http://www.vbrick.com

Advanced Media Design
http://www.amdsys.com

Temple University
http://www.temple.edu

University of Massachusetts
http://www.umass.edu

Interactive Inc.
http://www.iternactiveinc.org

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30,000 Apple laptops available for $48 apiece

Boston.com reports that Maine’s seventh- and eighth-graders are getting new laptops this fall, which leaves more than 30,000 old Apple iBooks. Schools are being given the opportunity to purchase the older iBooks for $48 dollars apiece. Despite the fact that they are older, slower, and more than “gently used,” for the price, they can make a good investment for schools. While under no obligation to do so, many schools are opting to purchase the laptops, while at the same time, maintaining realistic expectations about their purchase. Schools are weighing their options about the computers, and might distribute them to families of students or to other students in the school system….

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Microsoft to unveil new IE

USA Today reports that Microsoft is releasing the latest test version of the Internet Explorer browser, which is the current market leader. The new beta edition will be available as a free download for English language users on Tuesday. The new test version will also feature fixes for problems that caused problems in Internet Explorer 7. The new version of IE also features “tabbed” browsing, which will allow users to view more than one website in a given window. The final version of the browser is expected to be available later this year…

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